04 November 2010

Ouch! Is that a snail shell stuck in her intestine?

A recent Google search on snails found a medical case report* about a 74-year old Spanish woman who had a snail shell stuck in her ileum, the terminal portion of the small intestine. The woman had swallowed the shell accidentally while apparently eating a Spanish dish called paella that contains snails. The woman was suffering from abdominal pain and vomitting when she was admitted to a hospital. Various scans revealed a foreign object in her abdomen, which was removed surgically and turned out to be a snail shell.

Here is a radiograph showing the shell in situ and a photo of it after removal.

Fig. 3 from Lerma et al., 2002.

I am not familiar with edible snail species of Spain, but this one may be an Otala sp. or perhaps, Eobania vermiculata. It's amazing that the woman swallowed the more than 3-cm long shell intact. She was lucky it didn't get stuck in her windpipe.

*Lerma, Marcos Agramunt; Mariscal, José María Errando; Cordón, Fructuoso Delgado; Abril, Segundo Gómez; Orón, Eva Montalvá; Pérez, María Jesús Martínez. 2002. Small Bowel Obstruction Caused by Snail's Shell: Radiographic and CT Findings. Journal of Computer Assisted Tomography 26:529-531. Abstract


Cindy said...

How does someone manage to swallow something like that whole? (*gag*) Why would she not try to chew it?
You have to wonder if she's toothless, and accustomed to just slurping stuff down?

DPC said...

Interesting, Aydin! I also just blogged about a similar topic here: http://muticaria.blogspot.com/2010/11/waiter-theres-snail-in-my-paella.html

I didn't see any Eobania for sale or on display anywhere while in Valencia, though i hear they are eaten in other parts of Spain.

Snail said...

My goodness, that's a big object to swallow. Given the flared lip on the shell, she really was very lucky it didn't get stuck and choke her.

John said...

I surprised she didn't notice the shell in her mouth or on the way down. It must have been a very delicious paella to distract her so much.

forestwalk/laura k said...

i have to agree with the others...how could she not notice that snail shell in her mouth??
yes! it must have been a delicious meal and she was just shoveling it in!!
yikes! she was lucky... Heimlich maneuver anyone?