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X-Ray Locates a Toy Traffic Cone Stuck in Patient’s Lungs

Kids have a unique knack for getting toys stuck up their nose or surreptitiously digesting them. As stressful as it might be when they swallow a figurine or trinket, seldom do we imagine that this kind of accident could manifest into a false cancer diagnosis down the road. But, that’s what happened to one British man who had a Playmobil traffic cone stuck in his lungs for 40 years.

The 47-year-old patient struggled with several respiratory issues including coughing and excess mucus. Initially, he was treated for pneumonia, after which his physicians noted some improvement. Yet, the symptoms persisted, so he underwent an x-ray, where physicians found a mass in his right lung that appeared to be a malignant tumor. After a bronchoscopy procedure, physicians realized that it was a toy traffic cone, and easily removed it with forceps.

According to the patient, he often played with Playmobil sets as a child, and recalled occasionally swallowing a few pieces. He believes that he excitedly aspirated the toy traffic cone shortly after receiving the set for his seventh birthday.

Doctors are calling this case “unheard of” in medical literature. The patient was a smoker, and the physicians believed the possibility that his respiratory issues might actually have been symptoms from smoking. The patient’s cough cleared up four months after the toy was removed. As a result, the airways have been enlarged, but this is common in 20 percent of patients with a long-term foreign object in their lungs.

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