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November 1955

Lye Ingestion: Oral and Gastric Destruction Without Esophageal Injury

Author Affiliations

Sioux Falls, S. D.

AMA Arch Otolaryngol. 1955;62(5):459-463. doi:10.1001/archotol.1955.03830050001001

Despite the efforts of Jackson* and others to prevent the terrible effects of caustic burns in the food passages, each year adds a new crop of unfortunate victims. Even with laws making it compulsory to placard containers of poisons and dissemination of information to the public, the compounds containing lye are ingested accidentally. However, for some reason these chemicals also appeal to the potential suicides. In many instances, the would-be felo-de-se is merely interested in obtaining sympathy and uses some familiar caustic poison because it is a handy household article. Too late, after the painful esophagitis, gastritis, and stricture have occurred, he awakens to the fact that he is a lifelong intestinal cripple.

Most of the would-be suicides take only enough lye or other caustic to cause painful intestinal lesions and residual scarring. Occasionally, enough lye is taken to produce overwhelming toxemia and death. In the cases which come