Published: Wed, August 14, 2019
Medicine | By Brett Sutton

One Man's False Teeth Got 'Lost' in His Throat After Surgery

One Man's False Teeth Got 'Lost' in His Throat After Surgery

A 72-year-old man who went to hospital complaining of a sore throat was found to have his pair of false teeth that had gone missing eight days earlier stuck in his larynx.

Hazel Stuart, James Paget University Hospital Medical Director, said: "We had an incident in 2018 and as soon as it was identified the patient was advised and an apology provided by the clinical lead".

The initial surgery was to remove a harmless lump in the man's abdominal wall.

"Listen to the story the patient is telling you and do not be distracted by positive findings on investigations", Cunniffe wrote. The doctors were unable to determine what was causing these symptoms and sent him home after prescribing mouthwash, antibiotics, and steroids.

After a couple of days he was again discharged, but returned six days later because of further bleeding.

In two days, he was back at the hospital again - this time with even more symptoms.

Doctors were concerned that he had developed pneumonia from inhaling something and admitted him to the hospital.

According to the authors, there was no guideline about having to remove dentures before surgery.

While examining his throat, doctors found "a metallic semicircular object overlying the vocal cords and completely obstructing their view".

When told this, the man said his dentures - a metal roof plate and three false teeth - were lost during his previous hospital stay for his abdominal surgery.

Bouts of bleeding brought him back to the hospital a week later, and then 10 days after that.

It's not just dentures that can cause problems.

The source of the bleeding was eventually discovered to be "a spurting arterial vessel" in the man's throat that had been obscured by tissue that formed over it during the healing process, according to the report.

But by this time the patient had lost so much blood that he required a blood transfusion.

Ultimately, more surgery was needed to resolve the problem, which was revealed in a case report published by the British Medical Journal on Monday.

The authors note that this isn't the first documented case of dentures being inhaled while anaesthetic is being infused.

"There are no set national guidelines on how dentures should be managed during anesthesia, but it is known that leaving dentures in during bag-mask ventilation allows for a better seal during induction (when the anesthetic is being infused) and therefore many hospitals allow dentures to be removed immediately before intubation (when a tube is inserted into the airway to assist breathing)", wrote the study's lead author, Dr. Harriet A Cunniffe, an otolaryngologist at James Paget University Hospital in the United Kingdom.

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