Doctors Discover Rise in "Self-Embedding" Disorder

Radiologists, the people who examine the inside of your body using X-rays and other imaging tech, were among the first to discover a disturbing new syndrome called "self-embedding." No, it's not some cool piercing thing - here you can see the long, thin pieces of metal that a teenage girl has inserted in her arm. This is an actual disorder where people, especially teens, embed objects in their bodies.

Sometimes the objects are metal pins or paper clips, which makes them easy to pick up on X-rays, say a group of researchers from Chicago who studied the phenomenon in 10 teen girls. The problem is that a lot of people suffering from self-embedding cut themselves and then put objects like wood, stone, or crayons in the wounds. It's estimated that as many as a quarter of all teens engage in some form of self-injury at least once.

Apparently, if you think a patient might be self-embedding, the best thing you can do is examine them using ultrasound. Here you can see staples that a teen has lodged inside her hand.

Doctors Discover Rise in "Self-Embedding" Disorder

According to the Radiological Society of North America:

Using ultrasound and/or fluoroscopic guidance, interventional pediatric radiologists removed 52 embedded foreign objects from nine of the patients. The embedded objects included metal needles, metal staples, metal paperclips, glass, wood, plastic, graphite (pencil lead), crayon and stone. The objects were embedded during injuries to the arms, ankles, feet, hands and neck. One patient had self-embedded 11 objects, including an unfolded metal paperclip more than six inches in length.

Ultrasound guidance allowed the researchers to detect the presence and location of wood, crayons and plastic objects, not detectable on x-ray examinations. Removal was performed through small incisions in the skin that left little or no scarring and was successful in all cases, without fragmentation or complications.

The radiologists, who are presenting their research today at a meeting of the Radiological Society, say that dealing with self-embedding has helped them come up with techniques that aid in removing any kind of small object in the body without fragmenting the object - a very dangerous problem - and without leaving scars.

Radiologists Diagnose and Treat Self-Embedding Disorder in Teens [via RSNA]