DEC 04, 2017 3:05 PM PST

Diagnosed: 263 Coins, 100 Nails Behind Stomach Pains


Image credit: Sanjay Gandhi Hospital

When doctors first began treating an Indian man complaining of stomach pain, they could not have imagined the source of the man’s symptoms: 12 pounds of metal in his stomach.

The man, Maksood Khan, 28, came to the Sanjay Gandhi Hospital with a chief complaint of pain in his abdomen. The pain, he reportedly said, had been present for at least a month.

Was a nasty case of food poisoning? Or perhaps it was something more insidious, like cancer of the stomach? The answer: None of the above.

"He had been complaining of the pain for the last one month. After the general examination, we found that he had an infection in the abdomen and low blood pressure, he was in a critical condition," said Dr. Priyank Sharma, who led the surgery.

"We had suspicions that there was something else because his family had expressed doubts that he was consuming unnatural, abnormal things. So, we did an X-ray and ultrasound of the abdomen," he added.

Preliminary tests showed a large mass in his stomach, of a metallic nature. Indeed, scans showed Khan’s stomach was full of coins, nails, and even razor blades.

During surgery, doctors retrieved an astounding number of metal objects from Khan’s stomach. "We discovered in his stomach nut bolts, chains, 263 coins and around 100 nails. The surgery took three hours to perform," said Dr. APS Gaharwal, the head of the general surgery department.

The behavior of eating non-food or non-nutritional materials is known as pica disorder. This classification can be further broken down into the types of material consumed by a person, such as hair (tricophagia), paper (xylophagia), and metal (metallophagia). Other strange materials that have been consumed by people include paint, drywall, stones, soil, glass, chalk, and even feces.

While pica is more commonly seen in pregnant women, small children, and people with developmental disabilities, doctors think Khan’s metallophagia may have been triggered by depression. "This is a mental illness. Our psychiatry department also found that he might be in depression," said Sharma. Treatment for pica varies but usually includes behavior-based therapies.

"Post operatively, he was in a critical condition for 24 hours and was on ventilator support. Now he's out of danger but he will need some time for his stomach to recover," said Sharma. "There are still two to three coins in his rectum that will pass naturally.” Luckily, doctors don’t think Khan will sustain any long-term physical damages from the ordeal. However, he will likely have to engage in behavioral therapy to prevent another incident like this in the future.

Additional sources: CNN


About the Author
Doctorate (PhD)
I am a human geneticist, passionate about telling stories to make science more engaging and approachable. Find more of my writing at the Hopkins BioMedical Odyssey blog and at
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