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Clinical Notes
March 21, 1964

Geophagia Diagnosed by Roentgenograms

Author Affiliations

Durham, NC

From the Department of Medicine, Duke University Medical Center.

JAMA. 1964;187(12):955-956. doi:10.1001/jama.1964.03060250073022

THE FEATURES OF geophagia (pica),1,2 receive sporadic attention in the medical and sociologic literature. Geophagia is most common in the South, remains prevalent in the Negro population, occurs almost exclusively in females, and is usually exaggerated during pregnancy. During the course of an investigation of the nutritional and hematological effects of clay and starch ingestion, x-rays of the abdomen established the diagnosis in several patients and in others served as a useful index of the amount of dirt ingested. In addition, the radiographic findings have provided clues useful in establishing massive clay ingestion in certain cases of iron deficiency anemia of obscure origin. The purpose of this report is (1) to illustrate the radiographic changes, and (2) to recall attention briefly to this practice which may result in anemia, severe illness, and even death.3-8

Report of Cases 

Case 1.—  This 17-year-old Negro female came to the hospital with

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