Buying your child Lego for Christmas?

Interesting new research gives some assurance to parents of swallowing small objects

New research by Dr Damian Roland, Consultant and Honorary Associate Professor in Paediatric Emergency Medicine, University of Leicester, and colleagues, has uncovered how long it takes to pass a Lego figurine head following ingestion.

Published in the Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health, the research showed that the average time taken for a Lego figurine head to pass through an adult is 1.71 days.

Six, carefully-chosen, paediatric health‐care professionals, aged between 27 and 45 years, were recruited for the study. Participants were excluded if they had had gastrointestinal surgery, an inability to ingest foreign objects, or an aversion to searching through faecal matter.

The participants ingested a Lego head, measuring 10.11mm x 12.95mm, and the time taken for the object to be found in each participant’s stool was recorded.

Pre‐ingestion bowel habit was standardised using the SHAT (Stool Hardness and Transit) score, and the results were measured using a FART (Found and Retrieved Time) score.

The results showed that the average FART score was 1.71 days and there is some indication that females may be more accomplished in searching their stools than males, although this could not be statistically validated.

Dr Roland, who also took part in the research, was disappointed when he failed to recover his Lego head: “I was disappointed to not find my own Lego head and I was the only one of the researchers who didn’t!

“As we noted in the paper, if an experienced clinician with a PhD is unable to adequately find objects in their own stool, it seems clear that we should not be expecting parents to do so.”

In conclusions, the researchers think this work may provide a useful insight for parents who are worried about what might happen if their child swallows a small plastic object.

Although this was a fun piece of research, it raises awareness of the dangers of children swallowing objects, especially objects such as button batteries, which can result in serious harm if ingested. If this happens, parents should immediately seek advice from a medical professional.

The research is published in the Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health.