Powerful rare-earth magnets are sold as toys, decorative items, and fake piercings.
A National Patient Safety Alert has been issued around the risks of ingesting small ‘super strong’ neodymium magnets.
The small powerful rare-earth magnets are sold as toys, decorative items, and fake piercings and are becoming increasingly popular.
Unlike traditional magnets, these ‘super strong’ magnets are small in volume but powerful in magnetism and easily swallowed, the alert warns.
It goes on to explain that if more than one ‘super strong’ magnet is swallowed separately, or a ‘super strong’ magnet is swallowed with a metallic object, then they can be strongly attracted together from different parts of the intestines.
This compression of bowel tissue can cause necrosis and perforation of the intestines and/or blood vessels within hours.
The alert recommending to primary care clinicians that any patient who is suspected to have ingested neodymium magnets be urgently referred to an Emergency Department.
Healthcare professionals are asked to ensure an anteroposterior (front) and lateral (side-on) abdominal x-ray are completed alongside an urgent surgical review.
The risks of damage apply to children and adults of any size.
Care provided have been asked to update their internal guidance to reflect the alert and the significant risk the super-strong magnets could pose.
The alert comes after a review of the National Reporting and Learning System (NRLS) over a recent three-and-a-half-year period identified 24 incidents where patients experienced a delay in assessment or treatment.
You can view the full Patient Safety Alert.