'I had no idea' – woman swallowed entire foil packet of painkillers in middle of the night and forgot about it

A woman from Northern Ireland swallowed an entire plastic and foil packet of painkillers in the middle of the night and forgot about it — and doctors couldn’t find it for more than two weeks.

The bizarre case, dated in November last year, is documented in the medical journal BMJ Case Reports, which revealed that the packet of Tramadol was eventually removed by surgeons after being stuck in her throat for 17 days.

It took four visits to Craigavon Area Hospital and the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast for doctors to discover the ‘fit and well’ woman had swallowed the entire packet.

After being told the cause of her complaint the lady is reported to have said: “I had no idea I’d swallowed this. I couldn’t believe it when I saw the picture!”

The unnamed woman, in her 40s, had gone to A&E complaining of discomfort and difficulty swallowing. Doctors were initially baffled when X-rays and other examinations showed nothing lodged in her oesophagus, but the woman kept returning during a “frightening three weeks”.

After repeated tests and overnight stays in hospital, the packet was finally discovered and removed in an operation.

The patient claimed she had taken the prescription painkillers in the middle of the night, but she had no recollection of swallowing the entire plastic packet along with them.

Although the chunk of plastic was stuck in her throat for more than two weeks, the woman was still able to eat, drink and breathe normally.

When doctors examined her originally she also had no problems moving her neck, and nothing unusual showed up in X-rays.

Following the first visit to A&E, doctors believed she had injured her throat while swallowing tablets normally, so told her to come back if there was no improvement in two days.

Only after another five days on her fourth visit did doctors send a camera down the patient’s throat and discover the true and peculiar cause of the problem.

“She had swallowed her Tramadol tablets whole in the original foil packet which was lodged in the upper oesophagus,” Dr David McCrory wrote in the case report.

“She underwent rigid oesophagoscopy and removal of foreign body uneventfully (17 days after ingestion of her tablets!) and she was discharged after a period of observation.”

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