Girl's stomach removed after liquid nitrogen cocktail drunk

The BBC's Amy Gladwell: "As the frozen vapour hits the stomach it rapidly warms, releasing large volumes of air which can burst the stomach. Doctors performed emergency surgery to remove Gaby Scanlon's stomach, an operation known as a total gastrectomy"


      1. Yeah, I can’t imagine why anyone would think that this is a good idea…  Yeesh.

        (A few years ago, I heard an interview where a woman was hiking solo across Antartica.  One day, she opened her mouth, breathed in, and all her teeth fractured because the traces of water in her teeth froze…)

          1.  Yeah, I had the same reaction while I was listening to the interview.  And she had to hike back to civilization – which took here something like two weeks… 

      2. Will probably. Some people get away with it, presumably by putting it in their mouths very carefully… and then some of those accidentally swallow it so yea :P

        1. Won’t it cause severe frost burn in your mouth?

          I can’t imagine why anyone would possibly consider putting liquid nitrogen in their mouth.

    1.  I can understand food prepared using extreme temperatures, but served with the extreme chilling agent as a primary ingredient??

  1. wtf?! they were selling it as a drink?  FTFA:”Lancashire Police have not officially named the place where she bought the cocktail [at a bar], but say Oscar’s has stopped selling it”  …were they all out of sulfuric acid?  (also glad that they’re not officially named “Oscar’s” as the name of the place that they aren’t officially naming)

    1.  It’s arguably a physical toxicant. A toxicant is simply something that has an adverse effect on biological processes, and can be chemical, biological or physical.

      Though in popular usage, “toxic” is almost always used to mean chemically toxic, the term has a much broader broader use in biology.

      1. the gas pressure has a toxic effect. The cold burn has a toxic effect. Sure.

        But the specific pressurized gas is irrelevant.  And non toxic.

  2. I found that article to be strangely non-informative.  It reads like it was written by a student who just put a bunch of loosely related facts one after the other.  Biggest question:  how was the liquid nitrogen used in the drink?  Was it meant to be consumed, or was it a decoration?  And if it was a decoration, was it normally separated from the actual drink in some way?  You’d think that if the bar was selling them there’d be some information on exactly how this drink worked.

    1. It was apparently a Jaegermeister and liquid nitrogen cocktail.  They toss a wee dram of frozen death into it to make it smoke.  Oddly, the place that served it is a wine bar.

    2. It may be a controversial opinion, but I always feel this about BBC reporting. I think it’s the result of their attempt to appear unbiased – there’s always crucial information missing and a lack of commitment when it comes to anything even vaguely subjective.  They could write a story about Hitler and you wouldn’t know who the bad guy was.

      1. Furthermore, this article is in the Newsbeat section, intended for those with single digit IQs.

        The radio version is one of the main reasons I can no longer listen to Radio 1. Every story has to be patronising and accompanied by sound effects in case the listener is stupid enough to not understand what, say, a car is.

      2. “…there’s always crucial information missing and a lack of commitment when it comes to anything even vaguely subjective.”

         BBC tend to deliver the facts of a story, without commentary or opinion. if all the facts are not available, they opt not to replace them with speculative commentary or worse anonymous sources, unlike printed media or the likes of FOX/SKY 24 hour rolling enterain-o-news(tm).

        They are not perfect by any means. see their coverage of northern ireland during the 80s for example. But in general they provide the facts available and leave the viewer to draw a conclusion. Frankly I think it a little creepy that someone would criticise news, because it didn’t tell me what to think or feel about the reported event.

        1. They did a lot better before the whole Iraq war/Andrew Gillingham/David Kelly business (where they were completely in the right, but the government castrated them anyway; alas that was the Labour government, now we have the Tories who are even worse wrt BBC autonomy).

        2. It was a mild criticism, for what it’s worth – and if I want a story without a slant it’s still the first place I go.

          I suppose what I’m saying could be more easily compared to ‘reading a study with no conclusion’ – it’s not always easy to form an opinion if the data is complex or sporadic.

          I’m certainly not gunning for more lies and disinformation in the news :) But there’s a big difference between, say, “This has major privacy implications” and “This is evil – revolt!”. I’m talking more about the former than the latter.

    1. Shitty indeed.  It’s bad enough she lost her stomach, but it could still have been worse, If the LN2 was consumed in any cocktail-sized amount (say, an ounce), it could have destroyed her mouth, esophagus, and possibly arteries flash-freezing them on the way down.  The leidenfrost effect may protect your downward pointing arm when LN2 is dumped on it in small quantities, but any extended contact between LN2 and Nitrogen gas is going to chill the gas to near it’s point of condensation at 77K.

  3.  Lovely to hear that something that’s about 80% of the air we breathe (though obviously not in frozen form) is a toxic chemical. When do they ban di-hydrogen oxide?

    1. Throw a shot glass full of water into your face and you’ll get wet. Freeze the same amount solid and fire it from an air-cannon and the result is somewhat different.

  4. Puzzling headline — I was expecting a story about a child (“girl”), not an 18 year old, legal adult (“woman”). Call me an old school bra-burning 70s feminist, but I found this dismissive terminology perplexing and offensive, especially here.

    She has a hard road ahead of her. This is a tragic story.

  5. I’m doubtful about the “bursting stomach” thing. As Idobe points out above, it makes more sense that it’s a freezing injury. Once, when messing around with the stuff in a chemistry lab, I heard a story from someone who was doing the “pour it over your hand” thing (which feels amazing, BTW, but maybe this isn’t the place to encourage this) but they happened to spill some into their shoe. Hurt like crazy, apparently.

      1.  No argument about the amount of gas produced, but seems odd that the epiglottis would be stronger than the bursting point of the stomach. I’m not a doctor, though, my only qualifications here are having played around with liquid nitrogen a bit, and having watched my sister over-cook a haggis. At any rate a horrible thing to have happen.

          1.  We thawed the haggis before cooking it, so I have no data on that. I’ve frozen some balloons, though, and you may have a point there.

        1. The epiglottis isn’t responsible for holding ingesta in the stomach – the lower esophageal sphincter, which is at the junction of the esophagus and the stomach, serves as a one-way valve between the esophagus and stomach.

          A stomach dilated with gas can also twist, occluding the esophagus &/or outflow into the lower GI. Gastric dilation and volvulus is a common problem of deep-chested dog breeds, for example.

        2.  Frozen shut epiglottis plugged with frozen stomach contents and frozen cocktail may be sturdier than you think – and the border between frozen tissue and live tissue will be a significant stress point…

    1.  No, but most digestion’s actually done in the small intestine.  The stomach’s just sort of a ‘warehouse’ to keep food for a bit so you can let it into the small intestine bit by bit, rather then all at once.

      She’ll be able to live mostly normally, she’ll just get full (and then hungry) easier/more often.

      1.  She’ll need to be careful of a few things other than problems with needing to eat at the speed of digestive motility. One of the things that leaps to my mind is instant and total lactose intolerance – and no stomach to act as a holding tank while you wait for lactase-supplements to do their magic. :(

  6. It’s unbelievable that the bar would be so stupid as to serve liquid nitrogen to a customer in any form.   I remember in college we got some from the chemistry lab to fool around with.  One game was to take something soft and organic, in one case a warm hotdog, stick it in a cup of LN2 for a few seconds, then remove it and bang it against a table.  It shatters into a million pieces like fragile glass.  Just imagining the same thing happening to one’s digestive tract makes me cringe.  She must have been in tremendous pain. 

    1. A scientist got murdered in an episode of the X Files by having his head held in LN2 and then shoved onto the ground.

      1.  My girlfriend is Netflixing through all the episodes, so I happened to catch that one recently. I could overlook the cryogenically frozen head mind-controlling his twin brother, but having the canister it was in not spectacularly explode after it passed the boiling point for LN2? No sale.

    2. But you can pour it over your hand and it’s just amusing.  Letting it finish smoking would be the obvious safety tip (like blowing out your flaming sambuca) but (like certain beard-burners) sometimes you’re a bit too drunk to be clever.

      1. Yes, the pouring it over your hand trick is cool, but still dangerous. A layer of evaporating N2 gas buffers your skin from the liquid. But you can only do it for a short time, because your skin is cooling down very quickly.  More than a few seconds and you will get frost bite and tissue damage. That’s why dermatologists use it to “burn” off warts and acne.

        I suspect there was still a small amount of the liquid in her drink when she swallowed it; it probably went down quickly into her stomach and then sat at the bottom of her stomach for a few seconds burning a hole in it.

  7. The sad state of the UK science curriculum is fully exposed. You heard it there: Nitrogen is actually just Air with a posh name.


        1. I’d like to think I’m a little more complex than that, but air, on the other hand, is largely one type of bi-atomic molecule, a minority of another type of bi-atomic molecule, and a few impurities. If you’re not breathing it, then its physical properties are largely down to it’s being mostly nitrogen.

          If you were doing something engineer-y with a human body (or several of them), then the fact that it’s largely water would figure into how you’d treat it and what you could do with it. It would freeze at not much below 0°C, boil at around 100°C, and generally make a lousy building material.

      1. That statement is similar to saying that water is hydrogen.

        You cannot define a mixture as being one of its components, no matter how much you want to do so.

  8. This is why we can’t have nice things. Like freedom. Cue the laws restricting access to this “dangerous” substance in three.. two.. one..

    1. More likely would be a law making serving it for consumption, or in a manner where it may be accidentally consumed, a punishable offence. 

      I can buy as much bleach as I want but if I served it in a bar or restaurant… 

      And if there are any laws regarding serving or allowing consumption of noxious substances, then there won’t be a new law.

      However, that establishment should shortly have it’s ass handed to it by a lawyer civilly.

      1.  I can put a sparkler in a drink. I can light the alcohol on fire. I can put a cocktail umbrella in it. I can put fake icecubes made of plastic or glass.

        In all *these* cases, I can rely on common sense on the part of the punter.

        Liquid Nitrogen, apparently not, since it’s a liquid, in a liquid drink.

        I suspect that the amount dictated to be added was safe, but that the barman just added way more than that.

  9. Imagine you set your beard on fire ordering flaming sambucas.  The bar shouldn’t get in trouble for that.  Not that I ever did that, nosiree, not me.

    A dry ice pellet is a much more fun way of getting that “mad science” coctail look IMO.  Makes a nice light fizz too.

    1.  It’s also, like @DewiMorgan pointed out, more visibly non-edible to the consumer – although as a compulsive ice cruncher, the idea of what might happen if I got a dry ice cube in my drink while drunk… I’d have to be chemically altered to order a drink like that in the first place though, so I’d probably be talking to the magical gnomes in the drink instead of drinking it.

    2. there’s even a product for doing it safely, although the bulk takes away some of the appeal:

      one could homebrew a more subtle container; i think the company makes it very conspicuous for liability reasons.

  10. At my house we’ve been making ice cream and sorbet using dry ice: the cold stuff often doesn’t mix nicely with the wet stuff, and we end up leaving it in the freezer long enough to let all the CO2 sublimate. But it’s not as fluffy as I’d like. Any suggestions?

    Dry ice is as dangerous as I really want to get. An unfortunate early incident left me with orange juice on the ceiling that took months to clean up fully.

    Liquid Nitrogen? No thanks, that’s beyond my level of stupid.

  11. Evidently, it is safe to drink liquid nitrogen as long as you keep it under a carefully measured amount. This is sometimes done as a science demonstration.

    If it’s too much, then the layer of gaseous N2 surrounding the liquid N2 will decrease the temperature of the environment to the point where the N2 no longer vaporizes on contact.
    At this point, it starts causing real damage.

    Dry ice is causes damage even in small amounts since it immediately comes in contact with your skin.

  12. Hi-proof alcohol is really nasty at low temp.  Maybe the LN2 in the drink had all boiled off, and “cryo-napalm” was the real problem.  Alcohol at -320F freezes flesh instantly.  No insulating gas-layer, as with dry ice and liquid air.

    I saw mention of this in historical discussion of trappers in Canada: keep your hooch inside your jacket, because it becomes dangerous to drink during -40F weather.

  13. There are a lot of bars that serve cocktails with Liquid Nitrogen, and whilst in this instance it seems like the bartender really wasn’t trained properly, it can be safely done. Much like flaming cocktails, train your staff and don’t be stupid about who you serve.

    Here’s how to use it safely!

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