By Dr. Dave Hnida

(CBS4) – Okay. So little kids are always sticking little toys up their noses, into their ears, or swallowing them.

But what about a little toy inhaled 40 years ago, a kid who didn’t tell anyone and then forgot about it all?

Well, in this case the forgotten toy led to a major health scare 40 year after the fact … or inhalation.

A new report in the British Medical Journal describes the case of a man in his mid-40s — a heavy smoker — who developed a cough.

The obvious thing for a long lasting persistent cough is to do chest X-ray.

Unfortunately, this chest X-ray had the classic appearance of lung cancer.

Scary stuff.

So the next step is to do a biopsy. In this case, you do a bronchoscopy, which means putting a tube down his throat into the lungs and snipping a piece of the mass to get an idea of what kind, and how bad the cancer might be.

That’s what the diagnostic plan was for this 47-year-old with a new, harsh cough and an X-ray that suggested the appearance of cancer. After all, he had smoked heavily for more than 20 years, and lung cancer seemed the most likely diagnostic possibility.

Yet when doctors stuck a tube into his lungs to get a biopsy, they found that they had entered “Toyland.”

They pulled out a little plastic toy cone, similar to what you see on the highway when traffic is being limited from a couple lanes down to one (obviously kid’s playset size, not the real thing).

A photo of the toy cone (credit: British Medical Journal)

It’s unusual for a child to inhale an object, and not choke, cough, or have any other symptoms or respiratory distress.

This little cone just sat there for more than 40 years, not causing a problem. The theory, though, is this gentleman coughed hard, loosened it up (the body had formed a protective coating around it in the bronchial tube) and it then caused chronic coughing…after a 40-year delay.

(credit: British Medical Journal)

He later recalled having a “Playmobile” toy traffic set when he was 7.

The mini-play traffic cone was successfully removed, and the patient stopped coughing within 2 weeks.

He also quit smoking.

And traffic on his playset highway was not affected by the 40-year loss of a traffic cone, as no traffic accidents were noted among his toy cars.

One lucky guy.

Dr. Dave Hnida is CBS4’s Medical Editor. He blogs about the latest studies and trends in the health world. Read his latest blog entries, check out his bio or follow him on Twitter @drdavehnida


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