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Don’t Forget The Lego


It might have escaped your notice, but the team at DFTB recently published a paper in the Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health that has garnered considerable interest.

Tagg, A., Roland, D., Leo, G.S., Knight, K., Goldstein, H., Davis, T. and Don’t Forget The Bubbles, 2019. Everything is awesome: Don’t forget the Lego. Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health55(8), pp.921-923.

We are sure you have questions. Lots of questions. So we thought we should answer them for you in the best way we know how.

What pressing scientific question did you ask?

We know that coins are the most commonly swallowed foreign objects in the paediatric population, and there is a lot of data surrounding transit time. The second most commonly swallowed objects are small toys but there is very little data out there. We wanted to know how long it would take for a small piece of plastic toy, in this case, a Lego head, to pass through.

How on earth did you come up with the idea?

In one of our regular editorial meetings, we discussed some of our upcoming publications and mused how we could do something a little lighter, akin to the great Peppa Pig paper in last year’s Christmas BMJ. And then Andy Tagg said, “I’ve got this idea, but you might think it a bit strange.” Within a short space of time, we had an international team of researchers chomping at the bit to undertake the study.

Did you really swallow those poor heads?

Of course we did! Do you want proof?

Then what happened?

We waited to see what would happen. We all know corn kernels can whip through the colon in seemingly no time, but what about a little yellow piece of plastic? There was only one way to find out.

And you searched through your poo to find them? How?

As with any research, it is important to have a robust search strategy before commencement. A variety of techniques were tried – using a bag and squashing, tongue depressors and gloves, chopsticks – no turd was left unturned. Although we only used a very small sample size, the fact that one of our heads went missing suggests that you shouldn’t worry if you can’t find it.

What happened to the missing head?

Who knows? Perhaps one day, many years from now, a gastroenterologist performing a colonoscopy will find it staring back at him.

But what about Ben Lawton? Where was he when all this was going on?

Don’t Forget the Bubbles was founded by four curious doctors – Tessa Davis, Andy Tagg, Henry Goldstein and Ben Lawton. Unfortunately, Ben was travelling when we undertook the study, and we didn’t think searching his colonic contents in an aeroplane toilet was fair.

And then you kept it quiet, right?

It can take an average of 17 years for science to go from bedside to bedside. Leveraging social media, we managed to go from online publication on a Thursday evening to global saturation by Saturday evening.

By Saturday morning Damian Roland was speaking on Canadian radio, and the DFTB group made Forbes, ars technica, and the BBC World Service by the afternoon.

But surely this isn’t hard science?

Of course, it’s not; it’s a bit of fun in the run-up to Christmas.

With such a small sample size, you mustn’t extrapolate the data to the entire population of Lego swallowers. Anecdata from Twitter suggests that many people accidentally ingested bits of Lego throughout their lives with no adverse effects*.

It is also worth noting that most people who swallow Lego are children, not fully grown adults. Data that applies to the adult population may well not apply to children.

Look at these two papers for a more scientific approach to ingesting foreign bodies in children.

Yeh HY, Chao HC, Chen SY, Chen CC, Lai MW. Analysis of Radiopaque Gastrointestinal Foreign Bodies Expelled by Spontaneous Passage in Children: A 15-Year Single-Center Study. Frontiers in pediatrics. 2018;6:172.

Macgregor D, Ferguson J. Foreign body ingestion in children: an audit of transit time. Emergency Medicine Journal. 1998 Nov 1;15(6):371-3.

You may also enjoy exploring the following posts about foreign bodies on DFTB:

Andy’s blog post on Foreign Body Ingestion

Chantal McGrath’s DFTB17 talk Batteries Not Included on Button Battery ingestion

What’s next for the group?

Whilst this may be the pinnacle of our publishing careers, we hope we have not peaked too early. Next up is finalizing all the details for our upcoming conference in London –, and then? Who knows?

*Please do not try this at home.

DFTB in the papers

Ars Technica


BBC World Service

CBC Radio Canada – As it happens

10 Daily

Herald Sun


  • The house-elves are still hard at work, copying, pasting, and occasionally weaving a little magic!


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