Most throat injuries in children occur in homes where soap is made — Prof. Tettey 

By Jibril Abdul Mumuni  

Accra, May 18, GNA – Professor Mark Mawutor Tettey, the Head of the Department of Surgery, University of Ghana Medical School (UG), says most throat injuries in children occur in homes where soap is made. 

He said such children accidentally consummed caustic soda, an active ingredient in soap making, leading to caustic injury, which “damages structures in the oral cavity, pharynx, and oesophagus.” 

The Professor was delivering an inaugural lecture at Great Hall of the University of Ghana on the topic, “The Scourge of Caustic Burns to the Throat: Challenges of Restoring a Normal Swallowing Mechanism.” 

“When these women are making the soap at home, at the end of the day, they end up keeping some of the dangerous substances in the containers like bowls, water bottles, and cups.  

Children, after playing for a while, reach out for cups to drink water, while caustic soda is tasteless, odourless, and colourless. They drink the caustic soda in the water before they realize that they have taken poison. This can potentially cause a caustic injury that will need urgent medical surgery, “he said. 

Prof. Tettey said patients who survived the initial treatment of caustic ingestion were presented with a long-term complication of severe damage to their upper tract. 

He said about 80 per cent of caustic injuries in Ghana were limited to the oesophagus, and 90 per cent of the patients were children. 

Caustic injuries to the aerodigestive tract occur when individuals accidently or intentionally ingest strong acid alkali. 

Caustic soda is a strong alkali and has devastating consequences when it encounters tissues. 

The chemical reaction that ensues leaves behind chemical burns with necrosis that can penetrate very deeply into tissues and organs,” he said. 

Prof. Tettey said the Ghana Cardiothoracic Centre was motivated to work on a procedure that would eliminate the use of tracheostomies in patients. 

The search for a solution, he said, led to the development of a procedure called Colon-Flap Augmentation Pharyngoesophagoplasty. 

He said more than 20 patients had benefitted from the Colon-Flap-Augmentation Pharyngoesophagoplasty procedure and the outcomes were excellent. 

Prof. Tettey advised stakeholders to work assiduously to prevent the exposure of the vulnerable to the accidental ingestion of caustic soda. 

He urged the Government to formulate policies and laws to regulate the import, packaging, and sale of “this dangerous substance and educate the end users, especially the illiterate and semi-literate mothers.” 

Prof. Nana Aba Appiah Amfo, the Vice Chancellor of the University, said the medical discovery by the National Cardiothoracic Centre was a testament to good leadership, teamwork, and mentorship. 

She called for effective regulation and education on the protocols for making soap at home.