What is the mortality and morbidity associated with 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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  • Most foreign bodies pass harmlessly through the GI tract and are eliminated in the stool.

  • Systemic reactions, such as from nickel allergy, are unusual but have been reported, typically in massive ingestions or occupational exposures.

  • Retained foreign bodies may cause GI mucosal erosion, abrasion, local scarring, or perforation.

    • Esophageal foreign body migration may lead to peritonitis, mediastinitis, pneumothorax, pneumomediastinum, pneumonia, or other respiratory disease.

    • Migration into the aorta may produce an aortoenteric fistula, a horrific complication with a high mortality rate.

    • Esophageal button batteries may cause substantial mucosal injury in as few as 2 hours. [15]

    • Swallowed magnets in the intestines may strongly attract other swallowed magnets or metallic objects through mucosal tissues, leading to ulceration, pressure necrosis, fistula creation, or perforation. [6, 7, 8] A swallowed combination of magnets and button batteries may be especially dangerous. [9]

  • Complications of removal procedures may lead to iatrogenic morbidity or mortality from the procedure or from accompanying sedation/anesthesia.

  • Traumatic epiglottitis has been reported in conjunction with foreign body ingestion, due to epiglottis injury from a finger sweep or from the swallowed object itself, even after the object has been removed or expelled. [16]

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