Increase in Pediatric Magnet-Related Foreign Bodies Requiring Emergency Care

      Study objective

      We describe magnetic foreign body injuries among children and obtain national estimates of magnetic foreign body injury incidence over time.


      We searched the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System for cases of magnetic foreign bodies in children younger than 21 years in the United States, from 2002 to 2011. Cases were analyzed by location: alimentary or respiratory tract, nasal cavity, ear canal, or genital area.


      We identified 893 cases of magnetic foreign bodies, corresponding to 22,581 magnetic foreign body cases during a 10-year period (95% confidence interval [CI] 17,694 to 27,469). Most magnetic foreign bodies were ingested (74%) or intranasal (21%). Mean age was 5.2 years for ingested magnetic foreign bodies and 10.1 years for nasal magnetic foreign bodies (difference 4.9; 95% CI 4.1 to 5.6), suggesting different circumstances of injury. The incidence of pediatric magnet ingestions increased from 2002 to 2003 from 0.57 cases per 100,000 children per year (95% CI 0.22 to 0.92) to a peak in 2010 to 2011 of 3.06 cases per 100,000 children per year (95% CI 2.16 to 3.96). Most ingested magnetic foreign bodies (73%) and multiple magnet ingestions (91%) occurred in 2007 or later. Patients were admitted in 15.7% of multiple magnet ingestions versus 2.3% of single magnet ingestions (difference 13.4%; 95% CI 2.8% to 24.0%).


      Magnet-related injuries are an increasing public health problem for young children, as well for older children who may use magnets for play or to imitate piercings. Education and improved magnet safety standards may decrease the risk small magnets pose to children.
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