Urgent assessment/treatment following ingestion of ‘super strong’ magnets

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.

About this alert

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.

About National Patient Safety Alerts

This alert has been issued as a National Patient Safety Alert.

The NHS England and NHS Improvement patient safety team was the first national body to have been accredited to issue National Patient Safety Alerts by the National Patient Safety Alerting Committee (NaPSAC). All National Patient Safety Alerts are required to meet NaPSAC’s thresholds and standards. These thresholds and standards include working with patients, frontline staff and experts to ensure alerts provide clear, effective actions for safety-critical issues.

NaPSAC requires providers to introduce new systems for planning and coordinating the actions required by any National Patient Safety Alert across their organisation, with executive oversight.

Failure to take the actions required under any National Patient Safety Alert may lead to CQC taking regulatory action.

Patient safety alerts are shared rapidly with healthcare providers via the Central Alerting System (CAS).

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