Brillo pad crack screen aspiration and ingestion
Moettus A, Tandberg D.
Department of Emergency Medicine,
University of New Mexico School of Medicine,
Albuquerque 87131-5246, USA.
J Emerg Med. 1998 Nov-Dec;16(6):861-3


Crack cocaine is commonly smoked in a pipe with a metallic filter made from a steel wool scouring pad. We report an unusual complication of smoking crack cocaine: the aspiration and ingestion of a Brillo pad filter. A 34-year-old female presented 7 h after drinking beer and smoking crack. She was concerned that she might have inhaled the "screen" from her crack pipe, a piece of Brillo pad the size of her fingertip. She complained of "burning" in her throat, a foreign body sensation, and change in her voice, but no dyspnea, dysphagia, or abdominal pain. On physical examination, she was afebrile with a pulse of 105 beats/min and respiratory rate of 24 breaths/min. She was tearful and spoke in a whisper. There were no visible oropharyngeal burns and the lungs were clear to auscultation, but she had intermittent inspiratory stridor. The O2 saturation was 96%, and the ethanol concentration was 100 mg/dl. No foreign body or burn was seen on indirect laryngoscopy. A lateral neck x-ray study showed a normal epiglottis and no foreign body. Chest x-ray studies were unremarkable. Fiberoptic laryngoscopy showed left posterior arytenoid edema and swelling. An abdominal x-ray study revealed a foreign body in the right lower quadrant consistent with the Brillo pad filter. The next morning, the patient was asymptomatic and was discharged, recovering without sequellae. While crack pipe screen aspiration is a rarely reported event, physicians should be aware of the potential for foreign body aspiration and ingestion by this mechanism.

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