Nearly 4,000 Americans visit the emergency department every year after getting a ‘foreign object’ stuck in their rectums, official data suggests.
A first-of-its-kind analysis estimated that 38,948 Americans aged 15 and up went to hospitals with the embarrassing injury between 2012 and 2021, the equivalent of around 3,895 per year.
Men accounted for nearly eight in 10 cases, with the most common group being males in their 20s and early 30s, who made up a third of all ER visits.
Sex toys accounted for more than half of cases, while other objects found ranged from toy balls or marbles to bottles, bottle caps, cans, drugs and even stationary.
Researchers from the University of Rochester, New York, found that men were more likely than women to come to hospital with a foreign object lodged in their rectums. They suggested, however, that this may be down to reporting bias — because women were less likely to put non-sexual objects in their rectums, reducing the chances of their case being recorded
The above shows the objects that were found in people’s rectums. Writing implements may include pens, rubbers or sharpeners. Miscellaneous could include light bulbs or even a World War One bomb
The above shows the age groups that were most likely to come to the hospital with a foreign object in their rectums
Researchers at the University of Rochester, New York, who did the study, said there has been a lack of hospital data on ‘retained rectal foreign bodies’ in the US.
They were compelled to carry out the research after data in the UK, Europe, Japan, and the Caribbean indicated that the injury was becoming more common globally.
Their work was published in the American Journal of Emergency Medicine last abut and was shared in Pub Med, the medical journal for the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
The team used data from the US National Electronic Injury Surveillance System database, which keeps a record of all injuries linked to consumer products or recreational activities recorded at 100 ERs across the country.
They extracted all cases involving injury to the ‘pubic region’ or ‘lower trunk’ that involved a ‘foreign body’, and then screened out those among under-15s or where the injury was not linked to the rectum.
This gave a total of 886 cases of foreign objects stuck in rectums over the 10-year study.
They then used national population estimates to extrapolate for the entire population, giving a figure of 38,948 — or 4,000 per year.
Bottles, jars or bottle lids were the most common non-sexual devices found stuck in people’s rectums, they found, accounting for 10 percent of cases.
They were followed by drugs, five percent, and a ball or marble, three percent.
Other objects spotted were described as ‘writing implements’, or 2.3 percent, which may include pens, markers and crayons.
Some 20 percent of cases also involved ‘miscellaneous objects’. Details were not given on what these were, but in previous cases, this has involved lightbulbs, dumbbells and even a World War One artillery shell.
About half of the incidents were linked to sexual devices, such as sex toys.
By age group, those aged 20 to 24 were most likely to be admitted to wards with foreign objects in their rectums, followed by 25 to 29-year-olds and 20 to 34-year-olds.
About 77 percent of cases were recorded among men — or more than three-quarters of the total.
Scientists did not suggest why the objects had ended up in people’s anuses, but this has previously been linked to sexual pleasure or gratification.
In the case of drugs, this may be tied to people trying to smuggle them across borders or into events such as festivals for sale.
Estimates suggest that more patients are coming to hospitals with objects stuck in their rectums than previously
Doctors may first attempt to remove the objects using manual extraction, or where they gently manipulate the object to free it from the rectum.
When this fails, however, they deploy a range of other techniques.
This can include dilation, or where steadily larger cylinders are inserted to widen the anal sphincter until the object falls out, or by attaching forceps onto an endoscope and inserting this into the rectum to grab and pull the object out.
In more serious cases, doctors may be forced to perform surgery to remove the object.
Laxatives can also be used, but this is not recommended because the anal contractions they cause may push an object further into the body.
The researchers said their estimates also revealed that more people were visiting hospitals with objects stuck up their rectums.
Back in 2015, there were an estimated 2,433 visits to hospitals per year with the issue.
But by 2021 they suggested this had risen to 5,230 per year — or more than doubled.
Researchers at the University of Rochester suggested women may not be less likely to run into trouble with devices in their rectums than men.
Instead, they said their data may be down to a publication bias.
Cases involving uncommon objects were more likely to be recorded, they noted, but women were less likely to have non-sexual objects stuck in their rectums. This, they suggested, would lead to fewer cases being registered.
Dr Anthony Loria, a surgeon resident at the University of Rochester who led the study, and others involved in the paper said: ‘These data quantify a frequently encountered clinical presentation that has received little research focus.
‘Females present at younger ages, with a significantly higher proportion of sexual devices, and have lower odds of hospitalization.
‘Conversely, the incidence among males is bimodal [has two maximums] peaking in the fifth decade of life, and the rate of sexual devices is les than among females.’
They added: ‘These data demonstrate that focusing exclusively on sexual devices would substantially underestimate the overall healthcare utilization related to this issue, particularly among males.’
The NIH said inclusion ‘does not imply endorsement of, or agreement with, the contents’ of the study, but the scientific and editorial quality of the journal will have been evaluated as part of the publication process.