NHSE Risk of Death from Button Batteries
A patient safety alert has been issued by NHS England to raise awareness of the risk of death and serious harm from delays in recognising and treating ingestion of button batteries.
Swallowing button batteries can lead to serious harm and death. The electrical current discharged from the battery results in a build-up of sodium hydroxide (caustic soda) which in turn causes severe tissue damage, and not the more commonly supposed theory of, leakage from the battery.
The sodium hydroxide causes tissue burns, often in the oesophagus, which can then cause fistulisation into major blood vessels, resulting in catastrophic haemorrhage.
Even apparently discharged (‘flat’) batteries can still have this effect, and button batteries pushed into ears or nostrils can also cause serious injuries.
Photo by Gerhard H Wrodnigg (Own work) [CC BY-SA 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons