- A coronavirus test swab got stuck inside a patient's lung after it snapped and went down her breathing tube
- The swab was picked up only after an endoscopy was performed
- Doctors removed the object and cautioned healthcare workers about the importance of conducting tests safely
A 51-year-old patient ended up with a snapped coronavirus test swab inside her lung after it was inserted into a breathing tube in her neck, a BMJ case report revealed.
The woman was undergoing brain surgery in a UK hospital to remove a fragment of her skull. As part of her treatment, a tracheostomy tube – placed into the windpipe to assist with breathing – was fitted.
After the operation, medical staff at the University Hospitals of Leicester NHS (National Health Service) Trust sent the patient to undergo a coronavirus test as part of normal protocol before discharging her to a nursing home.
Since the patient had been breathing through the hole in her neck and could have potentially become infected with the virus through this airway, medical staff took a swab through her tracheostomy tube.
However, a nurse carrying out the test felt the swab snap during the procedure, and part of it ended up in the patient’s windpipe.
The test swab is designed to snap into a test tube to be sent to the lab.
'Case highlights the need for guidance'
According to the case report, the patient became "momentarily unsettled" and began breathing more heavily for a while before returning to normal.
A CT scan of the woman's chest was performed, but the images did not reveal any signs of a foreign object. However, it did indicate an unusual swelling in the lower part of her right lung.
Upon further analysis of the images, doctors suspected that a foreign object was present, and conducted a flexible endoscopy (looking inside the body by inserting an instrument with a camera and light).
The endoscope was inserted into the tracheostomy site, and the swab was identified in the right lung.
The swab was later removed using flexible bronchoscopy – a procedure that allows doctors to look at lungs and air passages.
“This case highlights the need for clear guidance on how samples for SARS-CoV-2 are taken from patients with front of neck airways… and the potential pitfalls involved,” the doctors wrote in their report.
Image: Unsplash/mufid majnun