(LONDON) — The pen is mightier than the sword, so the saying goes. But in the case of an elderly British woman, a pen is also mightier than one’s stomach acid.
An unidentified 76-year-old woman had a pen stuck inside her stomach for the past 25 years, according to a report in the British Medical Journal. Doctors at a hospital in Exeter found the pen on a CT scan when the patient came to the hospital complaining of weight loss and diarrhea.
The patient told her doctors that 25 years ago, she was using the pen to inspect a spot on her tonsils when she slipped, fell and accidentally swallowed the pen. Her physician husband didn’t believe her story but took an X-ray of her stomach, which showed nothing inside of her.
So the pen remained in her stomach for over two decades, amazingly causing the woman no ill effects at all.
“The stomach does not have an extensive sensory innervation and the felt tip pen was blunt,” Dr. Oliver Waters, a gastroenterologist who treated the woman, told ABC News. “So if the pen was not damaging the stomach this would explain the patient’s lack of symptoms.”
When Waters and his colleagues fished the pen out of its gastrointestinal hiding place, they found that it still wrote clearly.
Doctors say the patient is probably lucky she chose a felt-tip pen to probe her tonsils. Something sharper, such as a ballpoint pen, could have cut into the lining of her stomach and allowed the gut’s bacteria to seep into the rest of her body.
“In all likelihood the pen didn’t show up on the first X-ray because there are no metal pieces in a felt-tip pen,” Dr. Michael West, a trauma surgeon at San Francisco General Hospital, told ABC News. “A ballpoint pen has several metal parts, like the springs and the tip, and would have been seen on an X-ray.”
Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio
Patrick Ary, WAAY
Michael Nedelman, CNN
Eric Levenson, Devon Sayers and Jamiel Lynch, CNN
Betsy Klein, CNN