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Book and Media Reviews
April 6, 2011

Swallow: Foreign Bodies, Their Ingestion, Inspiration, and the Curious Doctor Who Extracted Them

JAMA. 2011;305(13):1359. doi:10.1001/jama.2011.393

Some books defy categorization. Swallow: Foreign Bodies, Their Ingestion, Inspiration, and the Curious Doctor Who Extracted Them is one. It is a repository of oddities, a soliloquy to swallowing, a meditation on the mouth, and an ode to a remarkable physician.

Swallow describes the extraordinary personal and professional life of Chevalier Jackson (1865-1958), one of America's preeminent laryngologists. He was a clinician, endoscopy pioneer, teacher, author, artist, and instrument-maker. Author Mary Cappello points out that “Before Jackson's instruments and techniques, only two patients out of one hundred might successfully cough up, regurgitate, or excrete a foreign body, and surgery resulted in death in 98 percent of all cases” and that “Jackson developed over five thousand instruments and saved as many lives.” Amazingly, he removed ingested or aspirated foreign bodies without the use of anesthesia.

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