The doctors who swallowed LEGO – every parent will sympathise

In 2018, six healthcare professionals each swallowed a LEGO minifigure head in the name of science. What happened next?

It’s every parent’s nightmare. Your child wanders up to you and casually mentions that they may have just swallowed something they shouldn’t have, and more often than not, that something turns out to be a piece of LEGO. Doctors see this more often than you’d care to imagine, and, doctors being doctors, they like to experiment.

So it was that back in 2018, six paediatric healthcare professionals decided that they needed better data on how long it look a foreign object to pass through the average digestive system. An article on the experiment was written up on the defector website and given that most, if not all our readers will have LEGO bricks in the house, and a number will also have children, we felt it only right to report the findings.

Dr Henry Goldstein, an Australian who participated in the experiment, explained one of their driving motivations. A concerned parent would come to see their doctor and say something like “I’ve checked through every single one of my kids’ posts (stools) for a month, and I can’t find this thing.”


Was it really taking that long to… progress, or were the parents simply not doing a thorough enough job? Coins are the most commonly swallowed object, but as the doctors were looking for something easily swallowed, with no sharp edges, they settled on the ubiquitous minifigure head. Dr Tessa Davis brought in a bag of minifigure heads from her children’s collection. It doesn’t state whether she asked their permission first.

You won’t be smiling like that for long.

Dr Katie Knight mentioned that when Dr Davis handed out the heads, “mine had a bit of a grimace, which was a bit appropriate.” At a pre-determined time, all six swallowed their heads and then began a methodical search of their… personal output. Five of the six participants each found the ‘foreign object’ within 48 hours, whereas Dr Damian Roland… well, he never found his. He did later admit that while his colleagues were scrupulous in their search methods, he had “not been that enthusiastic or that diligent.”

The story is fascinating and gross in equal measure, but is told with good humour, so if you’ve ever had to take your child to the hospital as a result of an inadvertent ingestion, you’ll probably raise a smile. You’ll also never borrow a flour sieve from a doctor again.

If you’d like to buy some new, clean LEGO that’s never been through a digestive tract, then please use the Brick Fanatics affiliate links. Every purchase supports the site. Thanks.  

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