Million to One Shot, Doc

All the things that get stuck.

We know now what sends people to the hospital’s emergency department over the course of a year. There are common events like falling down stairs and tripping on a floor board, and there are seasonal things with sports and what not.

Is that really what we care about though?

The reason the ER seems so intriguing is because of the rare events. On one side of the spectrum, there are the people with real emergencies who need immediate medical attention. This is scary stuff for most people.

But then, on the other side of the spectrum there are the odd stories that make you go, “whaa?” Let’s focus on that. On one thing in particular. On, well, maybe this Seinfeld clip says it best:

Frank Costanza is furious with Kramer for making a supposed pass at his wife. In his rage, Frank slips and falls on a statuette of Jerry made of fusilli pasta. The episode ends at the proctologist and Frank exclaims, “Million to one shot, doc! Million to one.”

Million to one shot indeed.

As it turns out, people get a lot of things stuck in their rectum, but it’s typically the result of pushing something in rather than falling on something on the ground. We can find out what these things are through the same data — from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System — that we used to see general monthly patterns.

I downloaded data from 2009 through 2014, which like before, is a national sample from emergency departments in the United States. The data is focused on consumer products, and each record represents an ER visit and the main product that led to an injury. I then filtered down to injuries due to foreign bodies in the rectum.

So that’s where we’re at.

Between 2009 and 2014, there were an estimated 17,968 emergency room visits for foreign bodies stuck in a rectum. About three-quarters of patients were male, and as you might expect, many of the foreign bodies were sex toys. But, perhaps unexpectedly, about 60 percent of those foreign bodies were not sex toys.

Primary object

The question is this: What are these other products? Well, it’s a wide range of 90 things, from glass bottles, to tableware, to hand tools.

I could graph the counts, but there’s not much point. The sex toys category (officially massage devices and vibrators), is around 40 percent and everything else on its own is around one percent or less.

Besides, the numbers aren’t nearly as interesting as the doctor notes that provide a short description of each case. So here they all are from 2009 to 2014.

Click or tap object for a new story.


FYI: YOF and YOM stand for year-old male and year-old female, respectively. DX stands for diagnosis. FB stands for foreign body. PT stands for patient.

I like all the shorthand, misspellings, and abbreviations that help me picture an ER physician with a stack of paperwork to do, whizzing by a rather mundane case of foreign body in rectum. Just another guy running from the cops with a plastic bag of cocaine. Just another drunk person who chose dare instead of truth. But for me, the story my wife told me about the patient who got a vaseline jar stuck will always stay with me.

It’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt. Be careful.

injury-featuredMore Products that Cause Injury

Interested in non-rectum products? Here’s a look at the top 250 products that bring people to the ER over time.

All of the product images come from the Noun Project, which I find myself coming back to more often. The long list of credits: ziplok bag by Michael Wohlwend, jar by Adi Dizdarevic, bottle by Creative Stall, sex toy by Fabio Meroni, ball by Ema Dimitrova, straw by Juan Pablo Bravo, flatware by Jaap Knevel, pencil by lastspark, corkscrew by Gabriela Muñiz, lighter by Bohdan Burmich, shot glass by Lloyd Humphreys, electric toothbrush by lastspark, hook by Geoffrey Joe, duck toy by Pavel N., makeup brushes by parkjisun, necklace by celine labaume, hanger by Fabio Meroni, golf ball by hunotika, cream jar by Ashley Ma, diaper by Cynthia Alarcón, baby bottle by Chiara Rossi, screwdriver by factor[e] design initiative, battery by S.Shohei, radiator by Oliviu Stoian, rolling pin by Jaclyne Ooi, mortar by Creative Stall, candle by Maurizio Fusillo, tableware by Ralf Schmitzer, camera by Alexander Blagochevsky, telephone by Raj Mohanlal, laptop by Ainsley Wagoner, horn by James Kindred, television by Creative Stall, curtains by Andrey Vasiliev, bicycle by Edward Boatman, door handle by Gabriele Fumero, glass bottle by André Luiz Gollo, bucket by Creative Stall, billiards by Arthur Shlain, remote by Creative Stall, desk by Creative Stall, flashlight by artworkbean, bath by Adji Herdanto, vase by B Barrett, wire by Remco Homberg, rope by Adriano Gazzellini, pliers by Nathan Thomson, tools by Aha-Soft, toilet brush by parkjisun, soap by Stanislav Levin, test tubes by Alex Auda Samora, plastic wrap by OCHA Visual Information Unit, aerosol by Yaroslav Samoilov, toilet paper by Patrick Trouvé, lego by jon trillana, balloons by Marieva Cunha, marble by Pedro Martínez, doll by Francesco Cesqo Stefanini, garden hose by Oliviu Stoian, comb by parkjisun, t-shirt by Timur Zima, shaver by Vectors Market, pin cushion by Hollie Burgess, scrub brush by Daniel Ghinaglia, curling iron by Vectors Market, coins by artworkbean, first aid by Vectors Market, dog leash by Denora Daujatas, screws by Arthur Shlain, handrail by Arthur Shlain, window by Arthur Shlain, soccer ball by Nick Abrams, refrigerator by IlMostro, swimming pool by Stanislav Levin, mirror by Vectors Market, bed by Stefano Bertoni, crayons by Alfredo Hernandez, chess piece by Adame Dahmani, microwave oven by Yazmin Alanis, toy car by Oliviu Stoian, and tent by Erika Carter.

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