Farmer dies after accidentally swallowing inch-long fish bone

A farmer tragically died of a fatal infection caused by swallowing a fishbone.
A farmer tragically died of a fatal infection caused by swallowing a fish bone.
B.M.Munasinghe via IJSCR

A Sri Lankan farmer tragically perished after swallowing a fish bone, which pierced his intestine and triggered a fatal infection. A case report detailing the freak accident was published in the “International Journal of Surgery Case Reports.”

The 60-year-old unnamed patient had reported to the coastal District General Hospital of Sri Lanka, after experiencing three days of abdominal pain, vomiting, constipation and a distended belly, per the report.

Suspecting he was going into septic shock, medics rushed the man to intensive care, where scans revealed that his abdomen was filling with fluid. This symptom suggested that his kidneys had stopped working — a possible sign of sepsis, where the body’s immune system attacks its own organs.

A subsequent two-hour operation revealed a small hole in his intestine, which the medical staff discovered was caused by an 0.8-inch-long fishbone. However, the farmer didn’t recall ingesting the 2-centimeter shard, the Daily Mail reported.

Nonetheless, the seemingly innocuous bone fragment had reportedly perforated his bowel, causing fecal matter to seep out and infect his abdominal wall. As a result, the intestine ballooned in size while yellow pus accumulated around the hole.

In an attempt to save the patient, doctors sliced a 3.9-inch (10 cm) segment of the intestine and drained the perforation with the aim of reattaching the healthy bowel after the infection was eradicated. Despite their efforts, the patient “passed away following cardiac arrest” just eight hours after his admission to the emergency room, per the report.

Interestingly, fish bones are the leading cause of “gastrointestinal perforations,” the study authors wrote.

“In regions where fish is a staple food, fish bones are not uncommon culprits of FBs [ingested foreign bodies],” the case report states. “The jagged, sharp nature of fish bones makes them more prone to inflict mucosal injuries and subsequent perforations.”

A local fisherman holds a bucket of freshly-caught fish just after returning to shore in Mannar, Sri Lanka, August 16, 2022.
A local fisherman holds a bucket of freshly caught fish just after returning to shore in Mannar, Sri Lanka, on Aug. 16, 2022.

And while the outcome is favorable in most instances, nonspecific symptoms coupled with poor imaging resources can result in a delayed diagnosis, which doctors believed occurred with the aforementioned case.

In a similar fatality in 2021, a Dutch man choked to death after swallowing his car keys while vacationing in Spain.

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