Chilli challenge burns 2.5cm hole in man’s oesophagus

An American man took on one of the world’s hottest chilli’s, the notorious “ghost pepper”, in a recent eating competition but the outcome was far from a win. After eating a hamburger laced with ghost pepper puree, the man began vomiting and retching violently. Suffering from severe abdominal pain he was admitted to hospital where doctors discovered a 2.5-centimetre hole in his oesophagus. The chilli eater underwent emergency surgery and spent 23 days in hospital. The ghost pepper, or bhut jolokia, was considered the world’s hottest chilli until 2013 when it was surpassed by the Carolina Reaper pepper. Ghost peppers have a measured heat of more than 1,000,000 Scoville heat units (SHU) – more than twice the strength of a habanero pepper. Cayenne pepper registers at around 30,000-50,000 SHU. The thumb-sized chilli pepper with frightening potency is widely eaten as a spice, a cure for stomach troubles and, seemingly paradoxically, a way to fight the crippling summer heat in its native India. Doctors writing in The Journal of Emergency Medicine have warned that the rise of food challenges may complicate diagnoses. In this spicy situation, doctors initially assumed the man’s symptoms related to discomfort after his meal, before discovering the rupture in his oesophagus. The condition, caused by excessive vomiting, is rare, carries a high mortality rate and is called Boerhaave syndrome after the 18th century physician whose patient died after vomiting up a gluttonous lunch.

Sydney Morning Herald, 16 October 2016 ; ;