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What happens to you if you swallow a battery?

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Italian doctors detected a cardiac arrest in a patient who swallowed a battery. The object altered the EKG data and confused the doctors. 

Although in this case it was removed without causing harm, they warn that if the battery had been in the body for longer it could have really harmed the heart.

The electrocardiogram machine showed alarming symptoms of heart attack for the patient in a hospital in Florence, Italy. However, the cause of the strange behavior of the machine turned out to be a battery that had been swallowed.

He was a 26-year-old inmate who swallowed an AA battery and after several hours began complaining of stomach pain. He was taken to the ER where doctors detected the object in the x-ray.

At the same time, they did an EKG that showed an elevated ST segment, an attribute of myocardial infarction. This fact seemed suspicious to the doctors since he did not show other symptoms of the disease: he did not have chest pains or difficulty breathing. In addition, it kept within the norm the level of troponin, the protein that is released into the blood during a heart attack.

For this reason, doctors concluded that the cause of the distortion in the electrocardiogram was the battery ingested. When the battery came into contact with gastric juices, an electric current probably generated that reached the heart and distorted the ECG electrodes.

“If someone swallows one or more batteries, the electrocardiogram can mimic changes consistent with an acute myocardial infarction or cardiac arrest,” commented the case American cardiologist Guy Mintz, quoted by the Annals of Internal Medicine, where the report was published of the unusual case.

Mintz expressed doubts that most physicians are aware of this phenomenon. He recommends doctors treating patients in similar cases to check biological markers of heart function, such as Troponin level, and remove the battery from the body as soon as possible.

The cardiologist warned that although in this case, it is not a real cardiac arrest, swallowing a battery can damage the heart: “a long-lasting electrical effect can lead to heart muscle damage.” 

More than this, if the battery gets stuck inside the intestine, it can have far more serious consequences. Continuous contact with gastric juices will cause the battery to open and its contents to contact the mucous layer. As a result, a chemical reaction begins that melts the tissue to complete destruction and the formation of deep ulcers.

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