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Doctors swallow Lego man heads in bizarre experiment to determine how easy they are to pass

A group of Australian doctors have each swallowed a piece of Lego as part of an odd experiment to help put parents minds at ease.

As children are often rushed to hospital after swallowing small items, such as Lego, researchers from the University of Melbourne wanted to know how long they take to digest.

They enlisted the help of six medical professionals and had them swallow the head of a Lego man.

The bizarre experiment, which the team branded ‘dedication to paediatrics’, was published in a scientific journal. 

Tessa Davis, consultant in paediatric emergency medicine at Royal Hospital, London, hoped the study would relieve parents’ worry 

 Thankfully, parents can rejoice, as the study found the small toy should be out within one to three days.

However, one patient never found the piece they swallowed in their faeces, searching for two weeks.  

The study, titled ‘Everything is awesome: Don’t forget the Lego’, was discussed on Twitter by the consultants involved. 

Dr Tessa Davis, consultant in paediatric emergency medicine at Royal Hospital, London, described it as a ‘burning question’.

She tweeted: ‘Should parents really be sifting through their kid’s poo? We confirm that the answer is… no. 

‘The DFTBubbles team selflessly sifted through our own stools just for you.’ 

DFTBubbles has a paediatric website and hold conferences that cover cutting edge research and insights into paediatric care.

Dr Davis added that the experiment was ‘worth it to advance science and pediatric emergency care’.

Before the Lego was swallowed, the participants bowel habits were standardised by the Stool Hardness and Transit (SHAT) score.

Participants then ingested a Lego head, after which it was a case of searching for the item in faeces, with the ‘search technique decided by the participant’. 

If it wasn’t humorous enough already, the excretion results were given the label ‘FART’ – the Found and Retrieved Time. 

A group of Australian doctors have each swallowed a piece of Lego as part of an odd experiment to help put parents minds at ease

A group of Australian doctors have each swallowed a piece of Lego as part of an odd experiment to help put parents minds at ease

The team, led by Andrew Tagg, an Emergency Medicine Consultant at Western Hospital Footscray, Australia, said: ‘This international, multicentre trial identified that small objects, such as those swallowed by children, are likely to pass in one to three days without complication. This should offer reassurance for parents.’

The time it took for Lego to pass was quicker than what is estimated for a coin, studied in the past.

‘The reasons for this are not clear and may only be answered by a factorial design study in which both coins and Lego heads are swallowed (ideally with one study arm including swallowing a Lego figurine holding a coin)’, the researchers said. 

They added that although it is possible children’s digestion time would be different from an adult, there is no evidence to support this.

They suggest that it may pass faster in an immature gut, concluding parents shouldn’t be anxious about their children being in pain if they swallow the toy.  

Speaking of the participant who never found the missing Lego piece, the authors said: ‘If an experienced clinician with a PhD is unable to adequately find objects in their own stool, it seems clear that we shouldn’t be expecting parents to do so.’


Children, particularly those aged from 1 to 5, often put objects in their mouth, and some small items such as marbles, beads and button batteries, are just the right size to get stuck in a child’s airway and cause choking.

Tips on helping a choking child

  • If you can see the object, try to remove it. Don’t poke blindly or repeatedly with your fingers. You could make things worse by pushing the object further in and making it harder to remove.
  • If your child’s coughing loudly, encourage them to carry on coughing to bring up what they’re choking on and don’t leave them.
  • If your child’s coughing isn’t effective (it’s silent or they can’t breathe in properly), shout for help immediately and decide whether they’re still conscious.
  • If your child’s still conscious, but they’re either not coughing or their coughing isn’t effective, use back blows. 

Back blows for babies under 1 year

  • Sit down and lay your baby face down along your thighs, supporting their head with your hand.
  • Give up to 5 sharp back blows with the heel of 1 hand in the middle of the back between the shoulder blades. 

 Back blows for children over 1 year

  •  Lay a small child face down on your lap as you would a baby. 
  • If this isn’t possible, support your child in a forward-leaning position and give 5 back blows from behind.

If back blows don’t relieve the choking and your baby or child is still conscious, give chest thrusts to infants under 1 year or abdominal thrusts to children over 1 year.

This will create an artificial cough, increasing pressure in the chest and helping to dislodge the object.

Chest thrusts for children under 1 year

  •  Lay your baby face up along the length of your thighs. 
  • Find the breastbone and place 2 fingers in the middle. 
  • Give 5 sharp chest thrusts (pushes), compressing the chest by about a third.

 Abdominal thrusts for children over 1 year

  •  Stand or kneel behind your child. 
  • Place your arms under the child’s arms and around their upper abdomen.
  • Clench your fist and place it between the navel and ribs. 
  • Grasp this hand with your other hand and pull sharply inwards and upwards. Repeat up to 5 times. 
  • Make sure you don’t apply pressure to the lower ribcage, as this may cause damage.

Following chest or abdominal thrusts, reassess your child as follows  

  • If the object still isn’t dislodged and your child’s still conscious, continue the sequence of back blows and either chest or abdominal thrusts. 
  • Call out or send for help, if you’re still on your own. Don’t leave the child. 

Call 999 if the blockage doesn’t come out after trying back blows and either chest or abdominal thrusts. Keep trying this cycle until help arrives.

Even if the object has come out, get medical help. Part of the object might have been left behind, or your child might have been hurt by the procedure.

Source: NHS 


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