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La radiologia medica

, Volume 120, Issue 1, pp 118–132 | Cite as

Body packing: a review of general background, clinical and imaging aspects

  • Ferco H. BergerEmail author
  • Koenraad H. Nieboer
  • Gerard S. Goh
  • Antonio Pinto
  • Mariano Scaglione
EMERGENCY RADIOLOGY

Abstract

To avoid detection at border crossings or airport customs, drug trafficking is increasingly performed by intra-corporeal concealment. Body packers may ingest packets of varying size and containing varying drugs (mostly cocaine, heroin and cannabis) mixed with other compounds, while body pushers will insert packets in the rectum or vaginal cavity. Body packing may lead to potential life-threatening complications with acute overdose syndromes after packet rupture and intestinal obstruction with possible ensuing bowel rupture being the most significant complications. Physicians including radiologists should be aware of the capabilities of imaging techniques to screen for presence of drug packets as well as the potential complications. Although conventional radiography has long been and still is the most important imaging modality for screening for presence of intestinal packets, the better test characteristics in conjunction with the decreasing radiation exposure, will likely render computed tomography (CT) more important in the future. For imaging of symptomatic patients, CT already is the modality of choice. Besides these modalities, ultrasound and magnetic resonance imaging will be discussed in this paper, together with more general background and clinical information.

Keywords

Computed tomography Body packing Body pusher Drug smuggling MRI Cocaine Heroin Abdominal X-ray Emergency 

Notes

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

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Copyright information

© Italian Society of Medical Radiology 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ferco H. Berger
    • 1
    Email author
  • Koenraad H. Nieboer
    • 2
  • Gerard S. Goh
    • 3
  • Antonio Pinto
    • 4
  • Mariano Scaglione
    • 5
  1. 1.Department of Radiology and Nuclear MedicineVU University Medical CenterAmsterdamThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Department of Radiology, UZ BrusselVrije Universiteit BrusselBrusselsBelgium
  3. 3.Department of RadiologyThe AlfredMelbourneAustralia
  4. 4.Department of RadiologyCardarelli HospitalNaplesItaly
  5. 5.Department of Diagnostic ImagingPineta Grande Medical CenterCasertaItaly

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