Bengaluru: Girl consumes liquid nitrogen infused ‘smoky paan’, undergoes surgery after hole observed in stomach

The patient underwent exploratory laparotomy with intra-op-OGD scopy and sleeve gastrectomy was swiftly conducted to address the critical condition.

BySouth First Desk

Published May 22, 2024 | 3:15 PM Updated May 22, 2024 | 3:25 PM


Consuming a seemingly harmless liquid nitrogen-infused “smoky paan” landed a 12-year-old girl here on the operation table after a hole was observed in her stomach.

The girl, whose identity has been withheld by Narayana Multispeciality Hospital in Bengaluru, underwent surgery recently.

According to the hospital, the girl had consumed ‘smoky paan’ at a wedding reception in Bengaluru.

The girl was diagnosed with a hole in her stomach (perforation peritonitis) necessitating emergency surgical intervention to prevent further complications, the hospital said in a statement.

The patient underwent exploratory laparotomy with intra-op-OGD scopy and sleeve gastrectomy was swiftly conducted to address the critical condition, it said.

“Intra-op OGD scopy- a procedure, where an endoscope, a flexible tube with a camera and light, is used during surgery to examine the esophagus, stomach, and duodenum-the first part of the small intestine,” the hospital quoted Dr Vijay HS, who headed the team of doctors, which performed the operation, as saying.

There was an unhealthy patch of about 4×5 cm on the lesser curvature of the stomach which was taken care of with sleeve resection (a part of stomach been removed), the hospital said, adding post surgery she had two days of ICU stay and was discharged after six days.

A month back, on 25 April, the neighbouring Tamil Nadu government warned food business operators against using liquid nitrogen for direct consumption along with food items like biscuits, ice creams, and wafers.

“Liquid nitrogen should be fully evaporated from the food or drinks before being served,” the order stated.

Also Read: Suspected food poisoning death haunts Kerala Food Safety Department again

What is liquid nitrogen?

Liquid nitrogen is a cryogenic liquid used in food products mainly for its rapid freezing abilities and for creating dramatic visual effects, like vapour clouds.

Speaking with South First earlier, noted neurologist from Apollo Hospitals Dr Sudhir Kumar explained: “This is a liquid that has a very low boiling point: -196° Celsius. It exists as a gas at room temperature.”

Liquid nitrogen is used to quickly freeze foods, which can be beneficial for preserving the texture and flavour of items such as ice cream.

Meanwhile, due to its extremely low temperature and dense vapour, chefs use liquid nitrogen to create a dramatic mist effect around dishes, enhancing the dining experience.

However, the extremely low boiling point of -196° C is far colder than the human body can tolerate.

Also Read: ‘Smoking’ biscuit and ice creams can burn a hole in stomach

Dangerous to human body

Dr Rajeev Jayadevan, a noted gastroenterologist from Kochi speaking with South First in April, said, “If something at that temperature comes into contact with the human body, it causes severe cryogenic burns and tissue damage, irrespective of if it is splashed on the skin or eye or taken internally.”

He explained that due to it being colourless, tasteless, and odourless, the person consuming it wouldn’t even know until tissue damage sets in.

Recalling a case, Dr Jayadevan said, “A case of pneumoperitoneum — massive amounts of gas in the abdominal cavity — was also reported. A man required amputation of his leg for massive tissue damage after he stepped on liquid nitrogen.”

Dr Kumar too explained that accidental contact exposure to liquid nitrogen could cause burns and frostbite, and accidental inhalation or ingestion (swallowing) could cause asphyxiation (choking) or airway/gastric perforations, respectively, due to the extreme cold.

“Many cases of several injuries from ingestion of foods and beverages containing liquid nitrogen have been reported,” he noted.

(With PTI inputs)