Important Research Published

I’ve always said that the UK has the best newspapers in the world. For example, the Guardian has reported on some very important medical research.

In 1995, the Ig Nobel Prize in literature was awarded to two surgeons who painstakingly assembled a study called Rectal Foreign Bodies: Case Reports and a Comprehensive Review of the World’s Literature. Those case reports involve, among other items: seven light bulbs; a knife sharpener; two flashlights; a wire spring; a snuff box; an oil can with potato stopper; 11 different forms of fruits, vegetables and other foodstuffs; a jeweller’s saw; a frozen pig’s tail; a tin cup; a beer glass; and one patient’s remarkable ensemble collection consisting of spectacles, a suitcase key, a tobacco pouch and a magazine.

The doctors, David B Busch and James R Starling of Madison, Wisconsin, were inspired by one of their own patients: “A 39-year-old married white male lawyer presented with a self-inserted perfume bottle in his rectum that he was unable to remove using various objects, including a back scratcher.”

That last guy wasn’t me, by the way. I’m only 38.

Other highlights include:

Their attention was caught by a “case of suspected misreporting of an assault” described in a 1934 New York State Journal of Medicine article: “A 54-year-old married man admitted to self-insertion of two apples, having previously complained of assault by several men involving forced insertion of a vegetable (one cucumber and one parsnip).”

I won’t be eating fruit or vegetables again for a while – not until the mental image now burned into my mind fades. It could be a while. I’m glad I’m not a vegetarian right at the moment.

A 1928 American Journal of Surgery article described a “patient who admitted to self-insertion of a lemon and a cold cream jar and stated that a drug clerk had advised him to use lemon juice and cold cream for relief of haemorrhoids, which were not found on examination”. A 1935 report in the same journal concerned a patient who “presented with a broken broom handle, stating that he was using the object to massage his own prostate, a service allegedly rendered twice a week by his physician when the patient had more money”. In 1932, The Illinois Medical Journal described a patient who “reported self-insertion of two drinking glasses for relief of itching”.

The author of this fine piece of journalism has promised there is more to come, including some practical advice. One rather obvious piece of advice springs to mind.