Background: It is increasingly recognized that in children swallowed multiple magnets cause considerable damage to the gastrointestinal tract.
Objective: To emphasize that complications from swallowed magnets are extensive worldwide and throughout childhood.
Materials and methods: The author surveyed radiologists and researched cases of magnet swallowing in the literature and documented age and gender, numbers of magnets, nature of the magnets, reasons for swallowing, and clinical course.
Results: A total of 128 instances of magnet swallowing were identified, one fatal. Cases from 21 countries were found. Magnet swallowing occurred throughout childhood, with most children older than 3 years of age. Numbers of swallowed magnets ranged up to 100. Twelve children were known to be autistic. Many reasons were given for swallowing magnets, and a wide range of gastrointestinal damage was encountered. Considerable delay before seeking medical assistance was frequent, as was delay before obtaining radiographs or US imaging.
Conclusion: Damage from swallowing multiple magnets is a considerable worldwide problem. More educational and preventative measures are needed.