Irish doctors removed 50 batteries from the gut and stomach of a woman

They were ingested in an act of self-harm.
Ameya Paleja
Closeup of a lot of color AA batteries on a bright yellow background
Closeup of a lot of color AA batteries on a bright yellow background


Doctors at the St. Vincent University in Dublin removed over 50 batteries from the gut and stomach of an elderly woman after an X-ray revealed many batteries in her abdomen, Live Science reported.

Ingested batteries are not a novel presentation for doctors as they frequently encounter such events in children. When a child eats small button-sized batteries, they usually pass through the body without causing damage. However, when they get stuck in the throat, the resulting injuries can be severe and even fatal.

The saliva in the throat can jump-start an electric current in the throat, which can start a chemical reaction between the trapped batteries that can end up burning the esophagus, severe tissue damage and bleeding.

What happened in the case of the elderly woman?

In this case, the 66-year-old woman had ingested the batteries deliberately as an act of 'self-harm'. Luckily, none of the batteries appeared to be obstructing her gastrointestinal (GI) tract, and the X-ray also showed no signs of structural damage to the batteries.

The doctors first took a conservative approach to see if the batteries could pass through the GI tract without any intervention from their end. They observed her for a week, during which the patient passed five AA batteries. However, three weeks later, the vast majority of the batteries had failed to continue progressing through the GI tract, and the patient began experiencing abdominal pain.

Interventions from the team of doctors

A team of surgeons then operated upon the woman and carried out a procedure called laparotomy in which an incision was made to access her abdominal cavity. They found that the weight of the batteries had pulled down the stomach and it had distended into the area above the pubic bone.

The team then cut a small hole in the stomach to remove the contents and recovered a total of 46 batteries, a mix of AA and AAA, from the organ. Four batteries were found stuck in the colon, the longest part of the large intestine. These were then milked into the rectum and removed through the anus. Thus, a total of 55 batteries were recovered from the elderly woman.

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A final X-ray was taken again to confirm that the GI tract was clear of any batteries and the patient has now fully recovered, Live Science said in its report.

"The deliberate ingestion of multiple large AA batteries as a form of deliberate self-harm is an unusual presentation," the doctors wrote in their report. "To the best of our knowledge, this case represents the highest reported number of batteries ingested at a single point in time".

The details of their findings were published last week in the Irish Medical Journal.

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