By Andrew M. Seaman
NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Blowgun darts may backfire and get lodged in teenagers' throats, according to a new report from one hospital.
Surgeons at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, reported on three cases of blowgun darts being lodged in the throats of teenagers, who were brought to their hospital during a span of four months.
"As a surgeon who manages airway foreign bodies in children, this was an interesting series of cases," Dr. Kris Jatana, the study's lead author, said.
Homemade blowguns can be constructed using common household items, Jatana, a pediatric otolaryngologist-head and neck surgeon, added.
"Most of these require materials that can be found in the home already. So children don't need to go out shopping to get them," he told Reuters Health.
In the first case brought to their hospital in 2011, a 15-year-old boy reported a sudden cough while playing with his siblings. X-rays showed a four-inch metallic needle stuck in his lower airway, just above the collar bone.
The boy later admitted to building a blowgun from instructions he found on the Internet.
The doctors then used a long, flexible tube with a camera attached to the end to find the needle, which was lodged at the entrance to the bronchial tubes, and remove it.
"It requires surgery under general anesthesia… Most of the time we're able to remove these in children without long-term (complications)… but there are other times when we have to perform open surgery through the neck," Jatana said.
In the following three months, the surgeons treated two more cases of inhaled blowgun darts in boys around the same age. Both had surgery without any complications, the researchers report in the journal Pediatrics.
Jatana said he knows of more cases at other children's hospitals.
The darts, according to Jatana, are inhaled when the teenagers suck in air before exhaling through the blowgun to send the dart flying. Sucking in air opens the airway and vocal chords, which exposes the lower airway, he said.
While the cases at their hospital showed that the homemade darts can travel to the teenagers' lower airway, Jatana said the needles can also damage the upper airway and pose a choking hazard.
"Any airways foreign body in general is a potentially dangerous situation. Particularly from the standpoint of airway obstruction," Jatana said.
He added that he and his fellow researchers had found 20 websites that show teenagers how to construct blowguns from homemade items, and cautioned that parents should be aware of what their children are doing on the Internet.
"I think it's difficult, but try to keep close supervision to what your children are doing on the Internet… and certainly discouraging any type of participation in these types of activities, because they can be life threatening," Jatana said.
SOURCE: http://bit.ly/12Hk8Go Pediatrics, online July 22, 2013.