An 18-year-old British woman’s birthday celebration was cut short by a trip to the hospital, ITV News reported.
Gaby Scanlon, of the village of Heysham, went out with friends to the Lancaster City Centre to celebrate on Oct. 4. After drinking a cocktail made with liquid nitrogen at Oscars wine bar, she complained of feeling breathless and then developed severe stomach pain, ITV reported.
Paramedics transported Scanlon to Lancaster Royal Infirmary hospital, where she underwent an emergency gastrectomy following a diagnosis of a perforated stomach. The teen is in serious but stable condition, according to a press release from the Lancashire Constabulary.
“Medical opinion is that this would have proved fatal had the operation not been carried out urgently,” police told Reuters.
The bar has cooperated with agencies investigating the case and suspended all drinks involving liquid nitrogen. The management told ITV that it was “tremendously concerned” about Scanlon.
Liquid nitrogen is extremely cold — the element turns into a gas at temperatures above -321 degrees Fahrenheit — and has a variety of medical and culinary uses due to its ability to flash-freeze almost anything. In bartending, liquid nitrogen is used to freeze alcohol. Paul Aitchison, Lancaster’s licensing councillor, told ITV that the novelty of liquid nitrogen drinks could entice customers to try them. Aitchison admitted he had tasted the Nitro Jagermeister, the cocktail that hospitalized Scanlon.
“I was quite shocked because I have actually tried [the drink] myself,” Aitchison told ITV. “You assume the drinks served in licensed premises will be safe. I didn’t have an adverse reaction to it. Unfortunately Gaby has and my heart goes out to her and I hope that she gets better.”
The UK Food Standards Agency released a statement warning consumers to exercise caution when consuming cocktails made with liquid nitrogen because of the human body’s inability to deal with the chemical’s cold temperature.
However, some experts believe liquid nitrogen has no place at all in beverages. Malcolm Povey, professor of food physics at Leeds University, told Reuters that consuming the substance in its fluid form is dangerous.
“The liquid nitrogen would rapidly change into gas and blow the stomach up like a balloon…the idea that people put this stuff in drinks is just unbelievable,” Povey said.
Following Scanlon’s recovery, she should be able to live normally. Gastrectomy patients can eat and drink ordinary food in smaller quantities, and they should also take vitamin supplements to make sure they are properly nourished, according to the BBC.
Scanlon isn’t the first to lose her stomach to liquid nitrogen. In 1999, a student from Worcester Polytechnic Institute underwent a gastrectomy after pouring liquid nitrogen in his mouth during a demonstration at an ice cream social, according to a WPI press release.