Just in time for eager grill-masters breaking out the barbecue for cookout season, Rhode Island Hospital has come out with a new and surprising warning.


Dr. David Grand, a radiologist in the diagnostic imaging department of the hospital, explains in a recent paper that six patients in an 18-month period arrived to the emergency room with symptoms of odynophagia (painful swallowing in the mouth or esophagus) or abdominal pain. All of them had consumed grilled meat within the pervious 24 hours.


Was the meat cooked improperly? Was a foodborne illness lurking about? Was starter fluid to blame? No, no and no. The diagnosis? Accidental ingestion of wire bristles from grill-cleaning brushes.


Of the patients, three presented with odynophagia as a primary symptom. Two underwent radiography of the neck, which revealed a metallic foreign body, while one patient had a CT scan that identified bristles within the neck. In all three patients, the wires were identified and removed.


The remaining three patients presented with abdominal pain and underwent CT scans. In two patients, the wire had perforated the small intestine and in the third, the wire perforated through the stomach and into the liver, and was surrounded by a large hepatic abscess. Surgery was performed in all three patients.


The moral of the story? Avoid bristle burgers. Brush your grill well while it’s cold, then wipe it down carefully with a damp paper towel to capture any stray wire quills.


The paper is published in the American Journal of Roentgenology and is now available online in advance of print.


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