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