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J Emerg Med. 2002 Jul;23(1):35-8.

Toothpick injury mimicking renal colic: case report and systematic review.

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  • 1Department of Emergency Medicine, Jacobi Medical Center, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, New York, USA.


We describe a case of a patient with left flank pain that was caused by a perforation in the splenic flexure of the colon by a toothpick. We conducted a systematic review of the literature to examine the nature of injuries caused by ingested toothpicks. Articles were analyzed for the following outcome variables: presenting complaint, site of injury, recollection of toothpick ingestion, time to presentation, findings from imaging studies, and mortality. Most patients (70%) presented with abdominal pain. Few patients (12%) remember swallowing a toothpick. The onset of symptoms ranged from <1 day to 15 years. Toothpicks caused perforation most frequently at the duodenum and the sigmoid. In some cases, toothpicks migrated outside the gastrointestinal tract and were found in the pleura, pericardium, ureter, or bladder. Toothpicks were apparent on imaging studies in 14% of the cases. The definitive diagnosis was most commonly made at laparotomy (53%), followed by endoscopy (19%). Overall mortality was 18%. Ingested toothpicks may cause significant gastrointestinal injuries, and must be treated with caution.

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