A tiny toothpick may look harmless when it's holding your sandwich together, but if accidentally swallowed, it can do a whole lot of damage.
In a case profiled in the New England Journal of Medicine, a teen athlete's deteriorating medical condition baffled doctors for weeks until they discovered he had swallowed a toothpick that was poking his large intestine.
The teen, who was not identified, underwent a procedure to remove the toothpick, but in the process, doctors discovered it had also jabbed an artery. When the toothpick was removed, the teen began experiencing "life-threatening" bleeding and had to be taken into the OR for more surgery.
The case was particularly confusing as the doctors did not see the toothpick on any imaging scans during the weeks they spent trying to diagnose the teen, who suffered a range of symptoms from back pain to bloody stools. He also had no memory of swallowing anything strange.
Dr. Mike Varshavski told Inside Edition that accidentally swallowing a toothpick can happen to anyone, which is what can make them so dangerous.
"It's actually not that crazy because the toothpick being only 3 inches can fit into one of these little sliders without [you] even seeing it," he said. "If you're in a rush or you're eating this quickly, and it goes in the right angle, you can swallow it and have no idea."
Ronald Wood, 72, became ill after eating a bacon-wrapped scallop at a party. Unbeknownst to him, there was a broken toothpick lodged inside.
"I didn't even feel the toothpick go down," he told Inside Edition. "I had no idea I had a toothpick inside my body."
A week later, he was rushed to the hospital and had to undergo surgery.
"I had sepsis poisoning and they had to cut a piece of my colon out," he recalled.
It took two years and five surgeries for him to feel normal again.
Now, he hopes his harrowing ordeal serves as a reminder for others to thoroughly check their food before eating it — just in case a toothpick is lurking inside.