Doctors in Dubai save 18-month-old boy after he ingests rusty pin

Child left vomiting and unable to breathe after swallowing 3.5cm object

The pin, right, swallowed by Dewan Ahmad, pictured left with his mother and the doctors who saved his life, Dr Suni Akbar, right, and Dr Khaldoon Dakka, left. Photo: Zulekha Hospital
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Doctors in Dubai have saved an 18-month-old child's life after removing a large pin that was lodged for weeks in a critical airway.

A team at Zulekha Hospital found the rusty 3.5cm pin in Dewan Ahmad's left main bronchus, a vital airway to the lung, following a chest X-ray.

The doctors removed the pin with a 30-minute operation called a bronchoscopy.

It could have been catastrophic
Dr Khaldoon Dakka, specialist thoracic surgeon, Zulekha Hospital, Dubai

“It was a life-threatening situation,” specialist thoracic surgeon Dr Khaldoon Dakka told The National.

“For a baby, his trachea is only maybe 4cm and this pin took up most of the space so he could not breathe.

“The constant irritation when the tip touched the airway caused him to cough. It could have been catastrophic.

“If the pin had gone undetected longer it could have pierced through the wall, damaged the lung, heart and blood vessels.”

A closer look at a pin in the airway of one-year-old Dewan Ahmad that triggered persistent coughing, vomiting and obstructed his breathing. Photo: Zulekha Hospital, Dubai

The child swallowed the pin about two weeks before being taken to hospital on December 30.

Doctors said he had a lucky escape as the rounded head was embedded in the airway, not the pointed tip.

“Fortunately for this child, it was not the tip of the pin that was stuck as that would have pierced further, kept moving and gone deeper,” Dr Dakka said.

“We really don’t know how he was able to swallow such a long pin.”

Worsening condition

Dewan’s family initially gave him medication for an infection due to a persistent cough.

It was when the coughing worsened, he could not sleep, began vomiting and could not breathe that the child was taken to hospital.

A CT scan showed the exact position of the pin, which was removed under general anaesthesia.

Dewan was also diagnosed with pneumonia because of an infection from the rusty object. He was discharged earlier this month.

Farheen Ahmad, Dewan’s mother, thanked the doctors and nurses for saving her child’s life.

“I don’t know what would happen if this was not found in time,” she said.

“My child was saved by the prompt diagnosis of the problem and the emergency procedure to remove the pin.”

This metal pin was removed from Dewan's airway. Photo: Zulekha Hospital, Dubai

Cautionary tale

Dr Suni Akbar, the specialist paediatrician who recommended the chest X-ray, urged parents to keep small objects out of reach of children.

“Children must never be given coins or toys with magnets that can be removed easily,” he said.

“These foreign objects can cause a child to choke and can even lead to death.”

Dr Akbar said parents should watch babies carefully as they put anything in their mouths.

“Take care not to drop things on the floor, avoid giving them nuts and hard candies and ensure grapes are always cut into small pieces,” he said.

Dewan was among the youngest to be operated on by doctors at the hospital for ingesting such an object.

Dr Dakka said children as old as 11 have been admitted for swallowing needles.

“Whatever you can think of we have removed from children,” he said.

“We manage many such cases but this was one of the most serious because he is a baby and there could have been much greater harm.”

Dr Dakka has previously removed peanuts, elastic bands, aluminium tin lids, parts of pencils and magnets.

Updated: January 15, 2023, 11:53 AM