Junior Mint in an Open Wound

In an episode of Seinfeld, a junior mint (a chocolate candy) falls into the incision during a surgery. The incision is then sewn up without the mint being removed. In the episode, the mint staves off an infection.

What would really happen is a chocolate mint ended up inside the body and was left there? I highly suspect it wouldn’t prevent an infection, I’m more curious would it be actively harmful?

In simple terms: Massive infection, massive immune response. Not an allergic reaction, per se, but what the immune system does when it detects a whole lot of “Not Us” proteins and other debris in the bloodstream. I don’t want to guess how bad it would get as the candy melts in what is, to first approximation, warm, salty water, but I highly doubt it would be as benign as leaving some steel buckshot behind.

(It would almost certainly cause a massive infection because it’s not been sterilized. We know it’s not been sterilized because it’s food in an active operating theater. What else did they have in there, live chickens? A few head of cattle?)

Would it be in the bloodstream? Wouldn’t it be in the peritoneal cavity? How would it get in the bloodstream ?

I think sepsis would result.

While it isn’t the best bacteria killer you’d find in a hospital, sugar does kill bacteria in its vicinity. Sugar is the reason that some home-canned foods, such as fruit, jams, and jellies take so long to spoil.

The antibacterial action doesn’t work because sugar is poisonous; it’s not. It works because bacterial cell membranes are vulnerable to osmosis, and dissolved sugar is very osmosis-active. If a bacterium gets into a sugar-saturated place, there’s sugar all around it, but very little inside it. Osmosis “wants” to balance the concentration on both sides of the membrane, but the difference is too great. The water-hungry sugar ends up taking all the bacterium’s water, and it dies.

It really depends. I use a sugar based wound ointment quite often, and also a medical grade honey. Neither are sterile once you open the package…but neither are meant to be used in airtight closed wounds, either.

You could go anywhere on the spectrum from no effect as the candy slowly dissolves and the body’s immune system removes the constituents to infection with cyst formation to lack of infection that would have otherwise occurred, depending on how sterile the wound wasn’t and what bacteria may have entered with the candy.

Writer’s choice. This isn’t a foregone conclusion from a medical standpoint.

This only works when the sugar is at a very high concentration. If it were to dissolve in, say, someone’s bodily fluids, the concentration would drop waaaay below this level, and be very happily eaten by any microbes present. Now, obviously, you shouldn’t have any microbes living in your abdominal cavity, but in this context, the sugar from the candy absolutely would not be antibacterial in any way.

The Junior Mint in question was in Kramer’s hand prior to being launched into the wound, and he’d had hand-to-mouth several times previously (munching on other mints).

So probably NOT sterile on surface when launched. On the other hand, the inflammatory reaction incited by the foreign material would be helpful in fighting off any microbes along for the ride. It’s all organic and ‘digestible’, and so could presumably be eventually resorbed (unlike a surgical sponge, for example).

It could actually mimic an infection that resolves.

I’m voting for sterile abscess (eventually cyst) vs full-blown abscess (infection). Maybe the former (with luck) if straight from the box, probably the latter if from Kramer’s hand.

You know, I’m really sorry I opened this thread, I mean, Ignorance Fought and all, but :eek:

Kramer never struck me as particularly sanitary.

I just wanted to thank everybody for the replies. This was a very interesting discussion.

You germophobe!


Not that there’s anything wrong with that. :slight_smile:

Get out!