Urgent patient safety alert has been released

Patient Safety

An urgent patient safety alert has been released. The full alert can be found here but the key points are:

  • Small, powerful magnets (also called neodymium or ‘super strong’) are being frequently sold as toys or fake piercings
  • Because they’re small they’re easily swallowed
  • If more than one is swallowed, or one and anything metallic (a coin, another toy etc), the risk of internal damage is huge
  • If the magnet and other object are caught in the intestines, compression of bowel tissue can cause necrosis and perforation of the intestines and/or blood vessels within hours
  • The National Reporting and Learning System (NRLS) identified 24 incidents over three and a half years where patients had delayed treatment, 65 where children under 18 had apparently swallowed a ‘super strong’ magnet and 26 where adults had done the same

What to do?
If you’re with a patient ask yourself:

  • Could they have swallowed a magnet, more than one or a magnet and something metal?
  • How long have they been unwell for?
  • Can you rule out magnet ingestion?

If you’re not sure, speak to CAL or use JRCALC.

More information can be found in the Royal College of Emergency Medicine guidance


Published 20 May 2021