Journal of Emergencies, Trauma, and Shock
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Year : 2010  |  Volume : 3  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 92-93
A lucky catch: Fishhook injury of the tongue

Department of Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery, Oxford Radcliffe Hospitals NHS Trust, Oxford, United Kingdom

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Date of Submission13-Aug-2009
Date of Acceptance14-Nov-2009
Date of Web Publication5-Jan-2010


Fishhook injuries, particularly those involving the upper limbs, are frequently encountered in recreational and commercial fishing settings. The oral cavity is rarely a site for such injury. We present the case of a 13-month-old male child who sustained a fishhook injury to the tongue whilst 'playing' with an unused fishhook at home. In this case there was minimal swelling, and the fishhook could be uneventfully removed under general anesthesia. Penetrating injuries to the tongue carry the risk of swelling and hematoma formation, which may result in airway compromise. These injuries therfore call for early intervention.

Keywords: Fishhook, tongue, airway

How to cite this article:
Eley KA, Dhariwal DK. A lucky catch: Fishhook injury of the tongue. J Emerg Trauma Shock 2010;3:92-3

How to cite this URL:
Eley KA, Dhariwal DK. A lucky catch: Fishhook injury of the tongue. J Emerg Trauma Shock [serial online] 2010 [cited 2022 Jan 18];3:92-3. Available from:

   Introduction Top

The majority of injuries caused by fishhooks are penetrating soft tissue injuries to the upper limbs and are encountered in recreational and commercial fishing settings. [1] One-third of such injuries affect the face, and the literature is replete with management guidance for injuries involving the orbit. [2],[3],[4] The oral cavity appears to be a rare site for such injury, with only one reported case of a soft palate injury in a child. [5] To the best of our knowledge, no injuries involving the tongue have previously been reported in the literature.

   Case History Top

A 13-month-old male presented to the emergency department with a fishhook embedded in his tongue and was immediately referred to the maxillofacial team. The boy had found a brightly colored unused fishing hook whilst playing at home and had placed it in his mouth [Figure 1]. When he attempted to pull the hook out from his mouth, it had become embedded in the dorsal aspect of his tongue. Attempts to remove the hook by his parents had resulted in it becoming further fixed within the tissues. There was no airway compromise, and his vital signs were within normal limits. He was transferred to the operating theater and the fishhook was uneventfully removed by a retrograde technique under general anesthesia. There was minimal swelling of the posterior aspect of the tongue. Antibiotics were not considered necessary. His childhood immunisations were up to date. He was discharged after a period of observation.

   Discussion Top

Injuries to the tongue carry significant risk of haematoma and potentially rapid swelling, threatening the airway. Patients should be managed with special attention to airway protection, nursed in the upright position, and all potentially distressing interventions should be minimized. Prompt removal of the fishhook should be performed under direct vision to prevent further soft tissue damage. General anesthesia is warranted in young children who are unable to cooperate. Local anesthesia is often required for all but the most superficial injuries. There are four main techniques described for fishhook removal: retrograde, string-yank, needle-cover, and advance-and-cut. [1] Identification of the hook type will aid in selecting the most appropriate removal technique. Doser et al.[6] found that 40% of fishhooks could be removed with a retrograde approach, which follows the entry path of the hook and therefore minimises further soft tissue damage. Where the fishhook has multiple barbs, any barbs that are not embedded in the tissues should be protected to prevent them from becoming so. The surgeon should take care to avoid personal injury, and eye protection should be worn. The fishhook should be inspected to confirm that no fragments have been left within the wound; often the patient will be able to provide another unused fishhook for comparison.

Following removal, a period of observation is advised, with the duration depending upon the extent of soft tissue swelling. The fishhook that had caused the injury in our patient was a new unused one, which is unusual in such injuries. In any case, few injuries involving fishhooks are associated with infection, and systemic antibiotics are rarely required provided thorough wound irrigation is carried out. As with all penetrating injuries, tetanus immunization status should be checked and cover provided where appropriate.

   Conclusion Top

All penetrating injuries of the tongue require prompt assessment to ensure adequate airway protection. In an uncooperative child, this can be difficult and examination often depends upon subtle signs. Management should be anticipatory and instituted early.

   References Top

1.Gammons MG, Jackson E. Fishhook removal. Am Fam Physician 2001;63:2231-6.  Back to cited text no. 1  [PUBMED]  [FULLTEXT]  
2.Swanson JL, Augustine JA. Penetrating intracranial trauma from a fishhook. Ann Emerg Med 1992;21:568-71.   Back to cited text no. 2  [PUBMED]  [FULLTEXT]  
3.Temel A, Gunay M. Corneal perforation due to a fishhook. Injury 1991;22:327-8.  Back to cited text no. 3  [PUBMED]    
4.Deramo VA, Maus M, Cohen E, Jeffers J Removal of a fishhook in the eyelid and cornea using a vertical eyelid-splitting technique. Arch Ophthalmol 1999;117:41-2.  Back to cited text no. 4      
5.Raveenthiran V. Soft palatal injury resulting from an unusual fishhook in a child. J Trauma 2007;62:1060.   Back to cited text no. 5  [PUBMED]  [FULLTEXT]  
6.Doser C, Cooper WL, Ediger WM, Magen NA, Mildbrand CS, Schulte CD. Fishhook injuries: a prospective evaluation. Am J Emerg Med 1991;9:413-5.  Back to cited text no. 6  [PUBMED]  [FULLTEXT]  

Correspondence Address:
Karen A Eley
Department of Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery, Oxford Radcliffe Hospitals NHS Trust, Oxford
United Kingdom
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0974-2700.58653

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  [Figure 1]

This article has been cited by
1 Evaluation of a Simulation Training Program for Uncomplicated Fishhook Removal
Scott McMaster,David J. Ledrick,Julie M. Stausmire,Kristina Burgard
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[Pubmed] | [DOI]


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