Healthcare News & Insights

Study pinpoints real cost of treating patients who intentionally swallow foreign objects

Hard to understand why people swallow outrageous items, but a new study uncovered just how much those folks cost the health care system. The study, published in Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology, was conducted by doctors at Rhode Island Hospital. For eight years, they followed patients who intentionally swallowed foreign objects.

In eight years, the team documented 305 cases — among only 33 patients. One of the patients was admitted 67 times during the course of the study.

Not surprisingly, the researchers found that 79% of the patients had been previously diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder. More than half had a mood disorder. Other common diagnoses were psychosis, substance abuse, impulse control disorders and anxiety.

The cost to treat these patients? Pretty high. The total cost for the 33 patients was over $2 million — roughly $1.5 million for hospital costs, $276k for security and $240k in physician fees.

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