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Magnet ingestion: The Alex

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Swallowed magnets

Most swallowed foreign objects are harmless and pass through the oesophagus, stomach and bowels (digestive tract) uneventfully.

However, in some cases, magnets can damage the intestines if they are eaten and cause parts of the bowel to stick together, potentially leading to ulceration and rupture, or even blockage of the bowels.


In particular, ‘super strong’ magnets that are often sold as toys e.g. BuckyBalls, need closer observation to prevent this damage and to make sure that the magnets are moving along the digestive tract without causing complications.

    What tests will my child have?

    Your child will have already had an X-ray of their chest and abdomen during their visit to the children’s emergency department (CED). This will show where the magnet is in their digestive tract at the moment.  Your child has been assessed as being safe to go home, but because the magnet(s) has not passed through your child’s bowels yet, they will need to come back for more X-rays to show that it is moving through the digestive tract without causing any problems. This is extremely important so that we can catch any complications early.

    You will be kept fully informed throughout this process.

    After going home, your child’s next X-ray will be done within 6 – 12 hours. This will be arranged with you by the CED nurse or doctor that has seen your child.

    Depending on the X-ray results, your child may be discharged, may need further X-rays in another 6 – 12 hours, or we may need to discuss your child with the paediatric surgery team to consider other options such as removing the magnet under a general anaesthetic.

      What should I do at home?

      Until your child has had their repeat X-ray, please remove any external magnetic objects that may be nearby and avoid clothes with metallic buttons or belts with buckles. Your child can eat and drink normally.

      There is no need to examine your child’s stools (poo) to see if the magnet has passed.

        ‘Red flag’ symptoms to look out for after you go home

        If any of the following happen return to CED immediately:

        • Abdominal (tummy) pain.
        • Vomiting.
        • Blood in vomit or in their stools (poo).
        • Fever.
        • Concern your child has ingested another foreign object or magnet.
        • You have concerns about a change in your child’s eating patterns e.g. refusing food or fluids.

          Useful Information:

          Our aim is to provide information that will help you understand your child’s injury and enable the appropriate after-care. There are lots of useful injury leaflets to download at the Royal Alexandra website; use the QR code below or follow the link:

          QR Code

          Useful numbers:

          NHS 111 - 24hr advice line.
          Practice Plus (Brighton walk-in Centre) 0333 321 0946.
          Practice Plus GP 0300 130 3333 8am/8pm - 7 days a week.

            This information is intended for patients receiving care in Brighton & Hove or Haywards Heath.

            The information in this leaflet is for guidance purposes only and is in no way intended to replace professional clinical advice by a qualified practitioner.

              Publication Date: February 2022

              Review Date: November 2024

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