A patient attended Craigavon Area Hospital and Belfast’s RVH four times before a plastic pill pack, lodged in her throat, was discovered.
The incident, involving a woman in her 40s who hasn’t been names, is featured in a medical journal report.
It says the patient had swallowed a packet of the painkiller Tramadol in the middle of the night last November.
But, although the woman attended Craigavon and the Royal Victoria Hospital it Belfast, it wasn’t discovered until 17 days after her first visit.
When she woke up that morning last November, she attended the Emergency Department and complained of discomfort and difficulty swallowing.
At the ED she was described as “fit and well”, and the ears, nose and throat team observed she was tolerating fluids, had no airway difficulties and could mobilise her neck, according to a report in the BMJ Journals.
The pill packet did not appear in X-rays nor was it spotted at this stage.
Medical staff did tell the patient to return to the Emergency Department if there was no improvement.
Three days later the patient returned to hospital.
The medical journal report revealed she was treated with steroids and painkillers for 48 hours until her symptoms improved and subsequently discharged.
A barium swallow scan was carried out five days later but came back as normal.
But during an outpatients appointment at a later date the pill packet was detected during an oesophago-gastroduodenoscopy (OGD) scan.
It was safely removed some 17 days after ingestion.
The woman was quoted as saying: “I had no idea I swallowed this.
“It was a very frightening three weeks and I couldn’t believe when I saw the picture.”
David McCrory wrote about the case for BMJ Journals. “She had swallowed her Tramadol tablets whole in the original foil packet which was lodged in the upper oesophagus.
“She underwent rigid oesophagoscopy and removal of foreign body uneventfully (17 days after ingestion of her tablets) and she was discharged after a period of observation.”