Doctors Ate LEGO To See How Long It Takes To Poo Them Out

January 8th, 2019

Have you ever wondered what would happen if you swallowed a Lego? Maybe not, but that didn’t stop researchers from investigating just how long it would take the toys to pass through a person’s digestive system.

And they didn’t just wait until some unfortunate soul ended up in the ER, they actually swallowed the toys themselves!

Dr. Andrew Tagg and his fellow pediatricians at the University of Melbourne in Australia went the extra mile for their research. They even recorded themselves swallowing the little Lego heads for posterity. You can scroll down for the whole video.

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YouTube Source: YouTube
swiggle1 dot pattern2
YouTube Source: YouTube

Since children often swallow toys (that’s why small pieces have warnings and age recommendations on them), the doctors wanted to see for themselves just what the experience was like and how long it would take the pieces to…well, come out the other end.

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YouTube Source: YouTube

Based on two hilariously named scoring tools – the Stool Hardness and Transit (SHAT) and Found and Retrieved Time (FART) – they discovered that the toy pieces took an average of 1.7 days to reemerge (aside from one curious case where it was still missing after 2 weeks).

While the results indicated that swallowing the little yellow heads wasn’t a major concern for little bodies, they advised that “some can be dangerous and parents should still be vigilant.”

The paper, titled “Everything is awesome: Don’t forget the Lego” was published in the Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health in December and has obviously received a lot of attention in the press for its entertainment value alone.

For those curious as to how this all came about, the researchers have published a Q&A on their website. Did you want to know how they investigated their bowel movements? Well:

“A variety of techniques were tried – using a bag and squashing, tongue depressors and gloves, chopsticks – no turd was left unturned.”

That’s some serious commitment!

And what of the doctor whose swallowed Lego head was never found?

“Who knows? Perhaps one day many years from now, a gastroenterologist performing a colonoscopy will find it staring back at him.”

The researchers’ creativity was rewarded with worldwide attention. After releasing the study on a Thursday, they were already being featured on Canadian radio, Forbes, ars technica, and the BBC World Service by the following Saturday.

They even summed up their research with a handy infographic:

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Don't Forget the Bubbles Source: Don't Forget the Bubbles

Of course, while it’s a fun and lighthearted lesson, it’s not hard science.

For example, the sample size was far too small to draw any legitimate conclusions. And children’s digestive systems are much smaller than an adult’s, so it may take longer for objects to pass through – and those objects might also do more damage to little intestines. Of course, the researchers acknowledged this:

“It is also worth noting that most people who swallow Lego are children, not fully grown adults. Data that is applicable to the adult population may well not be applicable to children.”

They did, however, point to more thoroughly-conducted studies of transit times of swallowed toys here and here – and these studied showed that there can actually be some very serious consequences for tiny bodies that ingest toys, sometimes requiring surgical intervention.

Of course, the researchers ended their report on a cautious note: “Please do not try this at home.”

Parents whose children swallow small objects should always get the advice of a doctor before letting it run its course.

Learn more in the video below.

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Source: Business Insider