Children have a knack for finding themselves in non-lethal peril. They eat things they shouldn’t, insert things that don’t belong in their nose into their nose, and sometimes fall inexplicably off beds. Rarely, they will get their tongues stuck in bottles, a potentially serious condition.
Doctors haven't had many options for removing stuck tongues safely and effectively. Common methods include cutting or breaking the bottle to release the presumed vacuum pressure, greasing both tongue and bottle to smooth the release, or sedating patients for a painful pull. Thanks to a paper just published in the European Journal of Anaesthesiology, however, we now know there may be a better way.
Describing the case of a 7-year-old boy who arrived at Auf der Bult Children’s Hospital in Hannover, Germany with his tongue trapped in a juice container, the paper details an innovative treatment method. Physicians first attempted to insert a narrow cannula—a thin flexible tube—between the tongue and neck of the bottle to release the vacuum pressure. When this didn’t work, one of the physicians, Christopher Eich, remembered how he had once opened a bottle of wine without a corkscrew—by adding, not removing, air to create positive air pressure inside the bottle. Thinking this might have the same effect, the doctor injected 60 milliliters of air through the cannula, which pushed the tongue out of the bottle. The boy made a full recovery.
Having your tongue lodged in a bottle can invite a host of problems, from edema and capillary damage to possible airway obstruction. Positive air pressure would seem to be a viable first-line treatment for patients, offering swift resolution and no need for heavy sedation.
No word yet on whether the technique would help cats that have a tendency to get their heads stuck in jars, but perhaps veterinarians should look into it.