Pediatric Surgery International

, Volume 23, Issue 12, pp 1245–1247

Magnetic attraction leading to a small bowel obstruction in a child

  • Stephen J. Fenton
  • Marcus Torgenson
  • Maija Holsti
  • Richard E. Black
Case Report


Foreign body ingestion in small children is common yet only 1% of cases require operative management of associated complications (Arana et al. in Eur J Pediatr 160:468–472, 2001). A 6-year-old boy was referred to our institution with a 12 h history of abdominal pain. This pain was diffuse and crampy in nature and associated with multiple episodes of non-bilious, non-bloody emesis. On evaluation he was stable and his abdomen demonstrated slight distention and tenderness without peritoneal signs. Plain abdominal radiographs demonstrated some distended loops of small bowel and a radio-opaque foreign object within the mid-abdomen. A small bowel obstruction secondary to foreign body ingestion was diagnosed and an emergent laparotomy performed. Upon exploration, a transition zone was noted near the ileocecal valve. Further exploration revealed the obstruction to be caused secondary to the apposition of two small (8 mm) magnets, one in the proximal ileum and the other near the ileocecal valve, resulting in an internal hernia. The magnets were easily separated relieving the obstruction and both were removed via two small bowel enterotomies. After being presented with the magnets, his parents suspected that they came from the clothes of a Polly Pocket® (Mattel, Inc., El Segundo, CA) doll. The patient had an uneventful post-operative course and was discharged to home on the second post-operative day. This case demonstrates the complications that may occur with multiple magnet ingestion. It highlights the need for close observation and early surgical intervention in children with a suspected history of foreign body ingestion, a clinical picture of gastrointestinal distress, and radiographic evidence of a radio-opaque foreign object.


Magnet Foreign body ingestion Small bowel obstruction 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stephen J. Fenton
    • 1
    • 4
  • Marcus Torgenson
    • 1
  • Maija Holsti
    • 2
  • Richard E. Black
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of SurgeryUniversity of UtahSalt Lake CityUSA
  2. 2.Department of Emergency MedicinePrimary Children’s Medical CenterSalt Lake CityUSA
  3. 3.Division of Pediatric SurgeryPrimary Children’s Medical CenterSalt Lake CityUSA
  4. 4.Salt Lake CityUSA

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