Liquid Nitrogen Cocktail Damages 18-Year-Old's Stomach

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An 18-year-old British woman reportedly needed emergency surgery to have her stomach removed after celebrating her birthday with a cocktail made with liquid nitrogen.

Reuters reports that Gaby Scanlon complained of breathlessness and abdominal pains before being rushed to a hospital in Lancaster, U.K., on Thursday. Doctors diagnosed the woman with a perforated stomach.

Scanlon then needed an emergency to gastrectomy to save her life.

"Medical opinion is that this would have proved fatal had the operation not been carried out urgently," a Lancashire Police spokeswoman told AFP.

When liquid nitrogen is added to a drink, it creates a smoky vapor cloud and is cold enough to freeze alcohol, turning it into slush, WebMD reports. That may cause severe frostbite and internal damage when inhaled.

Dr. Malcolm Povey, professor of food physics at Leeds University in the U.K., explained to Reuters how such a drink could rupture someone's stomach.

"The liquid nitrogen would rapidly change into gas and blow the stomach up like a balloon," he said. "The idea that people put this stuff in drinks is just unbelievable."

Other health risks from working with liquid nitrogen include cold contact burns that lead to severe frostbite, asphyxiation from inhaling it, or explosions because of pressure buildup, according to Utah State University's environmental health and safety department.

Peter Barham, a professor of physics at the University of Bristol in the U.K., told The Telegraph that liquid nitrogen can be used safely in food preparation.

"However, since it is not safe to ingest liquid nitrogen due care must be taken to ensure that the liquid has all evaporated before serving any food or drink that was prepared with liquid nitrogen," Barham said.

The bar which served the drink has stopped selling all liquid nitrogen cocktails, police said.