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First the stud, then the sequela

Yale Medicine Magazine, 2002 - Spring


At last, the news that horrified parents everywhere have been waiting for: piercing certain parts of one’s anatomy might not be so healthy. Last year, Yale physicians Richard A. Martinello, M.D., and Elizabeth L. Cooney, M.D., linked a young woman’s brain infection to the tongue-piercing she received a month earlier. “The bacteria that caused the abscess in this patient were those typically found in people’s mouths,” said Martinello. A few days after the piercing, the patient’s tongue was swollen and tender and produced a foul-tasting discharge. The symptoms cleared up after she removed the jewelry, but a month later she presented with headaches, fever, nausea and vomiting, and a CT scan showed an abnormality in her brain. Six weeks of treatment with intravenous antibiotics led to a full recovery. The physicians presented the case at the annual meeting of the Infectious Disease Society of America in October.