A 22-year-old man recently presented to an emergency room in Saudi Arabia for a highly unusual reason: He admitted to having inserted tweezers into his urethra four long years ago.
According to a May 2019 report in Urology Case Reports that's now gone viral, attending physicians were surprised not only by the placement of the three-inch tweezers, but also that the man had no visible symptoms. He told doctors that he didn’t have any pain, chills, fever, or problems with urination—unusual in cases like this with a foreign object inside the body. The man also didn't say how or why the tweezers wound up in his urethra.
Still, an X-ray revealed that, sure enough, there was a pair of metal tweezers lodged near the front of the man’s urethra (aka, the tube that lets urine—and in men, semen—pass through the body). Surprisingly, the man's bladder wasn’t distended and the opening of his urethra appeared normal.
The removal of the tweezers was no easy feat. With the patient under general anesthesia in the operating room, doctors attempted to remove them without causing any internal damage. But there was one major problem: the open end of the tweezers, which could have torn the urethral opening.
To address this issue, a surgeon assistant held the tweezers closed throughout the procedure in what researchers called an “external pressure technique.” Meanwhile, a surgeon removed them endoscopically with a pair of foreign body forceps. The patient fared well after the ordeal—and urinated successfully without a urinary catheter—and went home.
The removal of foreign bodies from the urethra is an uncommon, but not unheard of, procedure. An 11-year-old boy in China underwent a two-hour operation to have 70 magnetic beads removed from his urethra earlier in 2019, according to an article in the South China Morning Post. Some cases are the result of accidents or injuries. Other patients may insert foreign objects into the urethra because of curiosity, mental illness, intoxication, or autoeroticism, according to a series of case studies in the International Neurourology Journal.
Many patients in these cases hesitate to seek medical care because of shame or embarrassment. One case report in Emergency Medicine suggested that patients who had self-inserted objects into the urethra be referred to a psychiatrist to deal with any possible guilt, anxiety, or symptoms of mental illness.
The patient in this case was referred to a psychiatrist, but he refused the referral and has also refused to access outpatient care.
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