A Cincinnati man has re-discovered the nose ring he lost five years ago — lodged in his lung.
Joey Lykins, 35, was rushed to the ER late last month with a severe cough and a feeling that ‘something was blocking [his] airways’.
Doctors feared these were warning signs of pneumonia, but X-rays showed the groundskeeper actually had a 0.6-inch — which he had worn in his septum — embedded inside the upper left lobe of his lung.
Lykins believes he inhaled the piece of metal during his sleep, saying that one morning five years ago he woke up to find it was missing and after ‘turning my bedroom upside down’ decided it was lost and bought another.
There are several anecdotal reports of people swallowing or inhaling nose piercings online, often after they have been loosened. Experts say this is normally ‘safe’, but jewelry that’s larger, pointed or has a rough texture could get stuck or tear tissue.
Joey Lykins, 35, who lives in Cincinnati, Ohio, was shocked when doctors showed him the above scan revealing the nose ring in his lungs. He was taken to the ER after developing a serious cough that doctors thought was pnuemonia
Lykins (pictured above with another septum piercing and in hospital) believes he inhaled the septum retainer during his sleep. He said one morning five years ago he woke up to find it wsa missing and, after turning his room ‘upside down’ bought another
The septum retainer — which the groundskeeper had previously worn for three to four years — is now being kept as a souvenir. It is shown above after having been removed
Lykins said his wife Jennifer, 41, was ‘dumbfounded’ by the discovery. He is a big fan of piercings and has about 12 on his body
Lykins suggested that he may have swallowed the jewel — which he’d been wearing for three to four years beforehand — during his sleep.
Knocks to the nose can loosen jewelry and cause it to ‘pop out’ into one nostril. This could then be inhaled through the nasal cavity, or fall into the mouth where it could be swallowed or inhaled.
What are the risks with nose piercings?
Doctors warn that nose rings pose several risks to the body. These are:
- Allergic reaction: In some cases people may be allergic to part of the jewelry — such as nikel;
- Skin infections: The tear created for the piercing may become infected, especially if the equipment used was not properly sanitized. This could cause redness, pain, swelling and a puss-like discharge. In serious cases, it can also lead to scarring;
- Inhaling: In some cases the jewelry can be breathed in. This could risk it becoming lodged in the throat, or tearing tissue;
- Bloodborne disease: If the equipment used is contaminated, it could give a patient hepatitis;
- Trauma: Jewelry can get caught or torn out, damaging surrounding tissue and potentially leaving someone needing stitches.
Source: Mayo Clinic
Doctors were unsure why the jewelry had triggered the cough now rather than five years ago, although this could be because the scar tissue surrounding it had grown too large or due to it being moved slightly inside the lung.
When Lykins was first brought the scans, he exclaimed: ‘Are you kidding me? I’ve been looking for that!’
Three days after the scan at The Christ Hospital, in Cincinnati, he returned for the piercing — which was surrounded by scar tissue — to be removed.
Doctors put him under anesthetic and performed a bronchoscopy, a procedure normally used to help diagnose infection, clear blockages or remove objects from the lungs.
In the procedure, a pipe is slowly passed down the patient’s throat and into the affected lung.
It can then latch onto the object and is then gently pulled back up to remove it.
Lykins said he was keeping the metal bar — that cost about $8 — as a souvenir.
‘I’m glad it didn’t puncture my lung,’ he said.
‘It had never caused me problems, I’ve coughed but I never thought too much of it.
‘I didn’t know what was going on but I never though that’s what it was. I’ve never heard of it happening before.’
Lykins — who has 12 piercings — said when he told wife Jennifer, 41, about the scan she was ‘dumbfounded’ and insisted on seeing the X-ray images.
He suffered no complications from the surgery.
Lykins is not the first person to suffer this bizarre phenomena.
A medical report from the American College of Chest Physicians in 2020 records a case where a 26-year-old woman’s nose ring became stuck in the tube leading to her right lung.
The woman said she was loosening the ring when she suddenly sneezed, and sucked it into her windpipe.
The above shows the septum retainer inside the lungs and how it looked after it was removed
Lykins pictured with wife Jennifer, 41, at their home in Cincinnati, Ohio
X-rays revealed it had become lodged in her right bronchus — the tube leading to her lung. It was removed using a bronchoscopy.
Dr Niket Sonpal, a physician at Touro College in New York, previously told New York-based beauty publication Byrdie local publication that it is normally safe to swallow nose jewelry unless it has a pointed end or rough texture.
‘Odds are, these types of jewelry will also pass through the digestive system without issue,’ he said, ‘but the risk of damage to the tissue of the internal organ they must travel through is more present.’
He warned that swallowing a barbell was more risky because it was long and had a pointed edge on one end, which could harm tissue.