What is pediatric foreign body ingestion?

Updated: Oct 04, 2018
  • Author: Gregory P Conners, MD, MPH, MBA, FAAP, FACEP; Chief Editor: Dale W Steele, MD, MS  more...
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As children explore and interact with the world, they will inevitably put foreign bodies into their mouths and swallow some of them.

Most swallowed foreign bodies pass harmlessly through the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Foreign bodies that damage the GI tract, become lodged, or have associated toxicity must be identified and removed. Children with preexisting GI abnormalities (eg, tracheoesophageal fistula, stenosing lesions, previous GI surgery) are at an increased risk for complications.

Although adults most often present to the ED because of health problems related to ingestion of radiolucent foreign bodies (typically food), children usually swallow radiopaque objects, such as coins, pins, screws, button batteries, or toy parts. Although children commonly aspirate food items, it is less common for small children to present because of foreign body complications due to food ingestion. Swallowed objects are shown in the images below.

A swallowed coin lodged at the thoracic inlet. Ima A swallowed coin lodged at the thoracic inlet. Image courtesy of Gregory Conners, MD, MPH.
A swallowed radiolucent object (plastic guitar pic A swallowed radiolucent object (plastic guitar pick) is made visible in the upper esophagus after ingestion of barium. Image courtesy of Raymond K. Tan, MD, and Gregory Conners, MD, MPH.

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