Woman Thinks She Has Crohn's Disease, But It Turns Out To Be A Ketchup Packet

James Felton 03 Jan 2018, 12:42

A woman believed she had Crohn's disease for six years before doctors discovered her symptoms were actually being caused by a single packet of ketchup.

Six years ago the woman, then 35, began experiencing bouts of acute pain within her abdomen, as well as bloating, which lasted up to three days at a time. The patient was diagnosed with Crohn's disease, a serious and life-altering inflammatory bowel disorder that can cause both these symptoms. 

She was treated for the disease, but was unresponsive, according to the British Medical Journal. She was admitted to hospital on several occasions over the course of several years due to her symptoms.

When a team of doctors at the Heatherwood and Wexham Park hospital in Slough, UK, decided to operate, they found out why; her symptoms were actually caused by a Heinz ketchup sachet that had pierced the wall of her intestine.

During keyhole surgery, the surgeons found two small foreign objects. Upon closer inspection, they turned out to be pieces of a 6-year-old sachet of Heinz tomato sauce. They were removed from her intestine, which had become inflamed around where the packet had pierced the wall. 

"When surgical intervention became necessary for admissions with recurrent obstruction," they write in their case report, "laparoscopy revealed an inflammatory mass in the terminal ileum, exposing two pieces of plastic bearing the word ‘Heinz’."

One part of the packet that caused Crohn's-like symptoms. BMJ Case Reports

Once the packet was removed, her symptoms disappeared almost immediately, and five months after the surgery they have entirely vanished.

"It is important to consider alternative surgical diagnoses in patients with presumed Crohn's disease unresponsive to standard treatment," the authors write in the British Medical Journal. The case report notes a similar case where a 35-year-old man was diagnosed with Crohn's disease, before surgery confirmed it was a toothpick.

However, this could still be a first in medical history.

"To our knowledge," the doctors write, "this is the first report of a synthetic plastic packaging causing ileo-caecal junctional perforation mimicking Crohn’s disease."

According to Sky News, the woman said she had no memory of eating a whole packet of ketchup without squeezing out the ketchup first. The woman, now 41, is fully recovered and presumably quite happy that her Crohn's disease turned out to be sauce.

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