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When Eating Contests Go Wrong: Ghost Pepper Puree Tears Hole In Man’s Esophagus

19 October 2016, 12:52 pm EDT By Livia Rusu Tech Times
A man suffered a spontaneous esophageal rupture after eating ghost pepper on a contest. He was hospitalized for 23 days, connected on a plastic tube.   ( Fernando Espí | Pixabay )

The ghost pepper is also known as "bhut jolokia", one of the hottest chili peppers worldwide, with a measured heat of over 1 million Scoville heat units (SHU), on the heat index designed to establish the levels of capsaicin in peppers making them spicy.

In contrast, a habanero pepper can only measure twice lower in intensity, and jalapeno ranges from 2,500 to 8,000 units on the same scale.

Scientific approaches have had no record of adverse effects of ghost peppers reported in time. This was until a 47-year-old man tried a puree created from ghost peppers. The man presented to the Emergency Department, accusing severe abdominal and chest pains, after taking part in a contest.

A tomography of his abdomen and pelvis revealed pneumomediastinum and air around the esophagus. The symptoms suggested a spontaneous esophageal perforation, along with a left-sided pneumothorax due to the ingestion.

The man had to be intubated and immediately taken to the operating room, because of the 2.5-cm tear in the distal esophagus; he was extubated on the 14th day in the hospital, and discharged after no less than 23 days.

A spontaneous esophageal rupture, called the Boerhaave syndrome, is a very rare condition with a high mortality rate, and the case represents a medical reminder for all potentially life-threatening surgical emergencies that were initially perceived as just discomfort caused by spice, according to the scientific case study following the man's situation.

"Is it just boredom? Is it just this culture of, 'I can one-up you?' Or sort of like a schoolyard culture? I honestly don't know. I don't see the attractiveness of being able to say you accomplished this," complained Dr. Craig Smollin, co-author of the study.

This is not the first person trying to be brave enough as to participate in spice challenges and try to beat records. There are various YouTube videos documented while people usually screamed or cried because of the serious discomfort of eating such spicy peppers.

However, as it turns out, it wasn't just the pepper causing the man's esophagus tear, but the vomiting as well, due to the chemical reactions. However spicy the pepper is, it cannot produce acidity on its own, and it became dangerous the moment the man began to vomit. In cases like these, the survival rate is quite small, and 23 days on a plastic tube is actually one of the best outputs, according to the doctors who treated the man. The condition is very dangerous, and is fatal in 20 to 40 percent mortality rate, regardless of the medical care given to the patients with such affections.

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