Beverage can stay-tabs pose swallowing risk, a new study has said.
Three decades ago, U.S. manufacturers switched from removable can pull-tabs to stay-tabs, as there were a rising number of cases of children swallowing the pull-tabs.
But, now experts have claimed that the new tabs are still potentially unsafe.
The study's lead author, Lane F. Donnelly, M.D., radiologist-in-chief and director of biodiagnostics at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, said: "One of the driving factors leading the change in beverage can construction in the U.S. was to eliminate inadvertent swallowing of the pull-tab and potential related injury to the gastrointestinal tract.
"Our findings raise the possibility that the redesign of beverage cans may not have reduced the number of ingestions."
Donnelly has identified 19 cases of inadvertent stay-tab ingestion at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center over a 16-year period from 1993 to 2009.
The mean age of the children who had swallowed the tabs was 8.5. Only 4 of the children were younger than age 5. Most of the cases were teenagers.
He said: "It is unusual that the majority cases occurred among teenagers, since foreign body ingestion typically occurs in infants and toddlers."
Even though most of the 19 cases in the study were resolved without surgery, Donnelly explained that ingestion of foreign bodies, particularly those with sharp edges, can lead to injury of the gastrointestinal tract.
The fact that stay-tabs are difficult to see on x-rays can mean even more complicated medical cases.
While 19 ingestions were witnessed or self-reported, only four (21 percent) of the 19 ingested stay-tabs were visible on x-rays. In each visible case, the tab was located in the stomach.
Donnelly concluded: ""Clinicians and radiologists should be aware that this does occur. Not seeing the tab on the x-ray does not mean it was not swallowed.
"The identification of 19 ingested stay-tabs at a single children's hospital suggests that such occurrences are not uncommon."
The study was presented at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA).