The man had complained of symptoms including blood in his mouth and difficulty with breathing and swallowing

By Helen Murphy
August 13, 2019 10:38 AM
BMJ

A 72-year-old man’s dentures were found stuck in his throat over a week after he underwent minor surgery.

According to a case report published on Monday by the peer-reviewed medical journal BMJ, the unidentified man was having surgery to remove a harmless lump on his abdominal wall when the medical team left his dentures inside his mouth during the operation.

Six days after the surgery, he returned to the emergency room complaining of blood in his mouth and difficulty with breathing and swallowing.

Doctors told him he had a lower respiratory tract infection, according to the report, and sent him home with medication.

However, two days later, he returned to the hospital for a third time, this time with worsening symptoms that left him unable to swallow the medication he had been given.

While examining his throat, doctors found “a metallic semicircular object overlying the vocal cords and completely obstructing their view.” The object turned out to be the man’s missing dentures, which had gotten lodged in his throat during the surgery. The man previously thought that the dentures had simply been misplaced at the hospital during the operation.

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The man was rushed to surgery, where the dentures were removed. Following the emergency procedure, the man continued to experience health complications for weeks, but eventually was fully healed about a month later.

The report brings attention to the lack of guidelines regarding dentures in surgeries that require general anesthesia. In a 2016 study of 83 cases where dentures ended up in a person’s airways, six cases occurred while the patient was under general anesthesia.

“There are no set national guidelines on how dentures should be managed during anaesthesia,” lead author Harriet A. Cunniffe wrote in the report, adding that “many hospitals allow dentures to be removed immediately before intubation.”

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Cunniffe wrote that the report “highlights a number of important learning points” for medical professionals. 

“The first is to always listen to your patient,” she wrote. “It has long been known that one gets the majority of the information needed to form a diagnosis based on the patients’ history.”

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