I received a call very early in the morning today at 5.30am. It was the pediatric surgical MO who called. She needed my help for ultrasound scan for an 11-month-old child who presented with abdominal pain and persistent vomiting after swallowed a crystal ball. She requested me to be there within 30 minutes. So I changed my clothes, not able to wash my face or brush my teeth, I just sped to the hospital. When the child was there, she’s really cranky and weak. She kept vomiting despite a nasogastric was inserted. A round cystic-like structure was seen in the scan in the lower abdomen along with obstructed proximal small bowel. She was pushed to the OT for an operation. A foreign body measuring 5cm in diameter was removed from the small bowel. The child is currently stable.

The foreign body is an infamous soil substitute for indoor plants, called superabsorbent polymer or hydrogel/crystal ball. It is a small grainy particle that swells up when comes in contact with water and is fully expanded within 8 hours. These crystal balls come in many attractive colors, very appealing to the eyes. However they pose a great danger to your infants at home if ingested. The bowel may be obstructed by the hydrogel ball after ingestion due to the high water content in the gut.

I hope every parent is aware of these hydrogel balls and keep them away from infants. This terrible incident could be totally prevented.


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