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Pediatrics. 2012 Oct;130(4):e1011-4. doi: 10.1542/peds.2011-3685. Epub 2012 Sep 17.

Water-absorbing balls: a "growing" problem.

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  • 1Michael E. DeBakey Department of Surgery, Baylor College of Medicine, Texas Children’s Hospital, Houston, Texas, USA.


Foreign body ingestion is a potentially serious clinical problem in children. We report a case of an 8-month-old infant who developed complete bowel obstruction requiring laparotomy due to ingestion of a superabsorbent polymer ball with advertised growth up to 400 times its original size. Most ingested foreign bodies that pass through the pylorus will make it safely through the gastrointestinal tract. This is not true for water-absorbing balls that progressively increase in size and cause intestinal obstruction. Other household products and toys on the market use a similar polymer-based water-absorbing technology, thus increasing the risk for accidental ingestion by young children. These rapidly expanding objects can cause significant morbidity, and timely diagnosis and treatment are prudent to improve patient outcomes.

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