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Revista Colombiana de Cirugía

Print version ISSN 2011-7582


MERCADO, María Fernanda; ENSUNCHO, César Rafael  and  POSADA, José Carlos. Medical management of the "body packer" at a university hospital in the Colombian caribbean in the period 2014-2016. rev. colomb. cir. [online]. 2018, vol.33, n.3, pp.265-271. ISSN 2011-7582.


The term "body packer" refers to subjects carrying intraabdominal foreign objects that contain illicit drugs for contraband purposes. The majority of patients are asymptomatic, in whom expectant management is established, with close clinical observation and administration of medications for evacuation of the packages, with prevention of possible complications such as intestinal obstruction or intoxication associated with intra-abdominal transport.

Materials and method.

A retrospective linearity cross sectional study was carried out in patients admitted to the Hospital Universitario del Caribe, Cartagena, Colombia, under the diagnostic suspicion of "body packer" in the period 2014 and 2016. After a review of the institutional databases, demographic and clinical variables of the study subjects were analyzed.


Four patients were included, male, ages 22 to 66 years. The average number of capsules transported was 43, with maximum of 74. Cocaine was the substance mainly identified. Intestinal irrigation with polyethylene glycol was used for intestinal evacuation. The maximum evacuation time was 48 hours and there were no complication associated with the given management.


The existing studies on the subject, as well as this one, confirm the safety of the conservative management in the asymptomatic patient and support the effectiveness of polyethyleneglycol in achieving complete intestinal cleansing and the low risk of complications associated with its use with respect to other methods, together with diminished need for surgical intervention. Controlled randomized prospective studies are required to provide greater evidence in order to determine the best practice to be followed.

Keywords : body packing; drug trafficking; radiography, abdominal; ethylene glicol.

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