A Swab and a Miss: COVID Test Ends With Swab Tip in Woman’s Lung

At University Hospitals of Leicester, NHS Trust, U.K., a COVID-19 test went terribly wrong when the extra-long swab snapped off inside a 51-year-old woman’s lung. The healthcare worker had inserted the swab into a breathing tube in the woman’s neck.

The patient had recently received a tracheostomy in her throat to help with breathing, so it was unlikely for the virus to be present in her nose or mouth. Thus, the nurser swabbed the breathing tube. The swab, intended originally for use in the throat or nose, has a handle meant to be long enough to reach the throat in a way that allows the medical care worker to keep a little distance from the patient and avoid infection.

The end of the swab was designed to snap off when pressure is applied so that it fits into a test tube for laboratory analysis. However, instead the swab broke inappropriately during the procedure.

The broken swab could not be seen on X-ray or CT scan, although the scans did reveal swelling in the patient’s right lung. A camera inserted into the lung showed that the swab had lodged in her “right lobar bronchus.” Doctors used a bronchoscope to pull it out.

The patient had needed the COVID-19 test before she could be admitted to a nursing home, so that she didn’t unknowingly pass the virus onto others in the facility.

There’s no word on whether the hapless nurse was fired.

Disclaimer: This article does not provide medical advice. Do not take action based solely on this article and always consult with an appropriate healthcare professional. This article is purely for informational purposes.

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