Tue, Feb 03, 2015 - Page 3 News List

Woman survives cornstalk head-penetrating injury

By Stacy Hsu  /  Staff reporter

Leading an idyllic life in the countryside after retirement may be a dream come true for some, but it did not turn out so well for a 74-year-old woman who recently suffered a penetrating head injury caused by a cornstalk.

Chang Ming-yuan (張明元), an attending physician at Cathay General Hospital’s neurosurgery department, said the woman, surnamed Chen (陳), has a vegetable farm in Taipei’s Nangang District (南港) next to a deserted cornfield filled with dried cornstalks.

“In August last year, Chen went out to inspect the cornfield at dawn. She slipped and fell. When she stood up, she realized that a cornstalk had pierced her right cheek and tried to pull out the object by herself,” Chang said.

Chen managed to remove the visible part of the stalk before falling unconscious. She was rushed to the hospital by her family.

Unsure of what had happened, the hospital conducted a computerized tomography (CT) scan of the woman’s head. After the CT scans failed to provide a clear picture of what was inside the woman’s head, it decided to carry out a craniotomy.

“We found that the cornstalk had entered Chen’s skull from her right cheekbone and penetrated her cranial base, causing a 3cm-wide facial injury and a skull base fracture,” Chang said.

About a month after the removal of the 8cm-long object, Chen suffered a brain abscess and had to undergo two more craniotomies to drain it.

She subsequently received a titanium implant for skull defect reconstruction, Chang said.

“Most penetrating head injuries are caused by hard and blunt objects, such as a wooden stick or iron bar. It is the first time we have ever seen a cornstalk piercing a person’s skull,” Chang said.

He said Chen was extremely lucky, because she could have suffered speech impairment had the object penetrated her left temporal lobe.

She also would not have survived the accident if she had managed to remove the stalk by herself, Chang said, adding that it was quite fortunate that she managed to pull through after a brain abscess, as the condition has an 80 percent mortality rate.

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