Intended for healthcare professionals


Metal detectors to detect aluminium

BMJ 1994; 309 doi: (Published 09 July 1994) Cite this as: BMJ 1994;309:131
  1. John Ryan,
  2. Brian Tidey
  1. Senior registrar in accident and emergency Senior 1 radiographer Royal Sussex County Hospital, Brighton BN2 5BE.

    EDITOR,—D M Bradburn and colleagues highlight the poor radiodensity of aluminium.1 We now use a hand held portable metal detector (Adams Electronics, Edenbridge, Kent) to detect the presence of metal fragments in patients presenting to our accident and emergency department with a history of having ingested or inhaled metal fragments. This metal detector is sensitive to all metals, particularly closed rings such as the ring pulls on aluminium cans.

    In the light of Bradburn and colleagues’ case report we tested the ability of our metal detector to detect a metallic tab placed over the neck of one of us. A strong signal was emitted when scanning was performed from the opposite side. We note that the patient reported on had attended two accident and emergency departments and that radiographs obtained in both departments had not shown any abnormality. Had the patient been tested with a metal detector the presence of an aluminium fragment might have been detected earlier.

    We propose that metal detectors should be used more widely in accident and emergency departments. They have provided information equivalent to that provided by plain radiographs in patients suspected of having ingested a foreign body2 and in one case in which a razor blade was located in the oesophagus.3


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