National Patient Safety Alert on ingestion of super strong magnets

Cases require urgent assessment, investigation and treatment

Published: 28 May 2021 Emergency Medicine/Trauma

A joint National Patient Safety Alert has been issued by the NHS England and NHS Improvement National Patient Safety Team and Royal College of Emergency Medicine on the need for urgent assessment/treatment following ingestion of ‘super strong’ magnets.

Read now: National Patient Safety Alert - Urgent assessment/treatment following ingestion of ‘super strong’ magnets

Small powerful magnets, also known as neodymium or ‘super strong’ rare-earth magnets, are sold as toys, decorative items and fake piercings, and are becoming increasingly popular. Unlike traditional magnets, these ‘super strong’ magnets are small in volume but powerful in magnetism and easily swallowed.

If more than one ‘super strong’ magnet is swallowed separately, or a ‘super strong’ magnet is swallowed with a metallic object, they can be strongly attracted together from different parts of the intestines. This compression of bowel tissue can cause necrosis and perforation of the intestines and/or blood vessels within hours. Therefore urgent assessment and treatment is vital.

The alert asks providers to ensure any patients who have ingested (or are suspected of ingesting) ‘super strong’ magnets are referred to an Emergency Department as a medical emergency. In addition, organisations with an Emergency Department  are asked to ensure the right processes are in place so that any child or adult seeking emergency care having swallowed these magnets receive the necessary urgent assessments, investigations and treatments.

Download a PDF of the best practice guideline on ingested super strong magnets from the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, developed with the Society of Radiographers.

The Office for Product Safety & Standards recently launched a campaign to raise public awareness and reduce incidences.