"Emergency physician Elise Tiebie from Dijklander hospital, the driving force behind this project, saw online that this was really a rumour, from tip websites to Wikipedia as well as an anecdote in a British newspaper about paramedics saving a life by using cola. I've even heard doctors recommending it,” says Arjan Bredenoord, Professor of Gastroenterology at Amsterdam UMC and lead author of the study.
Sometimes a piece of food can get stuck in the oesophagus after swallowing, causing a painful feeling of pressure and sometimes people can no longer even swallow saliva. Usually, food gets stuck due to a narrowing of the oesophagus, which can be a scar from previous inflammation or from a narrowing by a tumour.
"This can be really dangerous, so it's important that people get the correct treatment. That's why we wanted to check if this works,” adds Bredenoord.
Sometimes the stuck piece of food comes loose on its own and sometimes it doesn't. Patients then have to resort to a trip to the emergency room. If there is a suspicion that the food chunk is still in the oesophagus, an emergency endoscopy will follow; A camera is inserted through the mouth into the oesophagus and the piece of food is then removed with a net or a forceps.
In the past, it has been suggested that cola could also help loosen the stuck food and prevent emergency endoscopy. Bredenoord and his team spread across five Dutch hospitals, investigated the usefulness and safety of cola when it comes to dissolving pieces of food stuck in the oesophagus.
51 patients participated in the study, while waiting for the endoscopy, half were given sips of cola in the emergency room, the other half just waited. If the patients still couldn't swallow saliva, an emergency endoscopy was indeed carried out and the piece of food was removed.
The results show that cola did not help, both in the patients who received cola and in those who waited without cola there was an improvement in 61% of patients. There were no side effects or complications of cola use.
"There was no improvement when using cola to loosen stuck food in the oesophagus, often the food dislodged on its own after a while and otherwise, we performed an endoscopy. Hopefully this put this myth to rest,” concludes Bredenoord.