When this 30-year-old Delhi man walked into a bar, all he wanted was a good drink, but he ended up with his stomach ‘open like a book’.
What he drank was a tempting and heavenly cocktail with white smoke flowing from it. Not realising that the drink was to be had after the ‘smoke’ dissipates, he downed it in one go. What followed was extremely painful; abdomen swelling and breathlessness. The man was rushed to a hospital in Gurgaon where the doctors took him to surgery room and found that there was a huge hole in his stomach which they said “was open like a book”.
According to a report in HT, what he had consumed was liquid nitrogen that has a boiling point of -195.8 degree Celsius and is used to instantly freeze food items and drinks. The colourless liquid is also used to cool computers and in cryogenic medical procedures like removing warts and cancerous tissues by freezing them. When used to freeze drinks, these should only be consumed after the nitrogen has completely evaporated.
“After I gulped down the drink, I started feeling very uncomfortable, like how you feel when there is an acid reflux. The bartender passed me another drink and I had it, not thinking too much about the discomfort. However, within seconds, my stomach started swelling and I was in unbearable pain. Breathing was also difficult,” said the man, who did not want to be named.
Liquid nitrogen has an expansion ratio of 1:694 at 20 degree Celsius, meaning one litre of liquid nitrogen at 20 degree Celsius can expand to 694 litres of nitrogen gas. And, as it evaporates, liquid nitrogen freezes everything around it, including tissues that come in contact with it.
“Consuming liquid nitrogen can cause havoc in a person’s system. By nature, liquid nitrogen expands manifolds and evaporates when left at room temperature. The gas did not have an escape route after the person consumed it and the sphincter closed, this is what led to a perforation (a hole) in his stomach,” said Dr Amit Deepta Goswami, the person’s doctor and consultant of bariatric and minimally invasive surgery at Columbia Asia Hospital, Gurgaon.
Dr Goswami said the man had come to the emergency section of Columbia Asia hospital feeling drowsy and restless. His stomach was abnormally swollen. His heart rate, blood pressure, and oxygen saturation were all haywire, he said.
The doctors also noticed that his lactic acid level was extremely high. “This meant that there was oxygen deprivation in the body. He had to be put on a ventilator immediately. A CT scan showed that there was free air in the abdominal cavity, meaning that there was a tear in the stomach or the intestines,” Dr Goswami said.
During the surgery, doctors found a huge perforation in the man’s stomach. “Usually perforations are smaller and can be sewed up. However, in this case, we found that the middle and the lower parts of the stomach were open like a book. It was not possible to stitch it back, besides the tissue near the tear was also damaged. So, we had to remove the damaged portion of the stomach and connect the rest to the small intestine,” said Dr Mriganka S Sharma, co-surgeon in the case.
After his surgery, the man had to be kept on a ventilator for three more days. but eventually, he recuperated. It’s been two months since the incident and he has recovered now. “I now realised I should not have consumed the drink without knowing what was in it. I have stopped drinking since ” he said.