Doctors showing the 10cm long cotton bud removed from the patient's lungs. Image Credit: Supplied

Abu Dhabi: An 80-year-old Emirati whose life was threatened by a cotton bud in her lungs has recovered after undergoing emergency surgery at Burjeel Hospital in Al Ain.

The 10cm foreign body had fallen into her trachea and moved to the bronchus in her lungs while her homecare assistance was cleaning the outer tracheostomy tube. The patient, who is bedridden, requires breathing support and had undergone a tracheostomy. She is assisted by a medical team, including a doctor and nursing staff.

Breathing difficulties

Following the incident in which the cotton bud fell into her trachea, the patient experienced breathing difficulties, and her oxygen saturation levels began to drop. The family then rushed her to Burjeel.

“By the time she reached the hospital, her oxygen saturation levels had become critically low. The endoscopy revealed the position of the cotton bud stick in the right bronchus. The presence of the foreign substance had triggered bronchial secretions, which filled the space around the lungs. There was mild bleeding in the lungs as well. Meanwhile, the oxygen saturation levels had fallen steeply to worsen her condition,” said Dr Ayman Helal, ENT surgeon at the hospital.

During the surgery, the cotton bud was removed along with the tracheostomy tube.

“We then reinserted the tracheostomy tube and stabilised the patient. We also ensured that the lungs were not infected, and that there was no bleeding. The patient was kept in observation for a day, and discharged on the next day.”


The doctor explained that any delay in removing the foreign body would have caused severe bronchial spasm, lung infection, and dyspnea. In such a case, it would have become a life-threatening condition.

The doctor added that it is dangerous to clean the tracheostomy tube with a cotton bud stick, and advised using a catheter to suck out the secretions. These tubes should be removed for cleaning every two months, and carefully reinserted afterwards.