What is the emergency department (ED) management for pediatric foreign body ingestions in the GI tract?

Updated: Oct 04, 2018
  • Author: Gregory P Conners, MD, MPH, MBA, FAAP, FACEP; Chief Editor: Dale W Steele, MD, MS  more...
  • Print

Stomach/lower GI tract

Most swallowed foreign bodies harmlessly pass through the GI tract once they have reached the stomach. Treatment of children with known abnormalities of the GI tract or previous problems with foreign bodies should be discussed with a specialist, preferably one familiar with the child.

Unusual foreign bodies: Very sharp or pointed objects may perforate the GI tract (sewing needles are notorious). Therefore, such objects should be endoscopically removed from the stomach. If such an object has passed into the intestines, early consultation with a surgeon is recommended. Objects that are too long (eg, >6 cm) or too wide (eg, >2 cm) to pass through the pyloric sphincter should be removed from the stomach.

Button (disk) batteries in the stomach or intestines do not need to be removed immediately, as they generally pass through the lower GI tract without difficulty. Button batteries retained in the stomach or at a fixed spot in the intestines should be removed. One strategy is to instruct families to observe the stool for the battery and to return for a repeat radiograph if it is not passed in 2-3 days. If a battery is still in the stomach at that time, it should be endoscopically removed. If it is in the intestines, its progress should be intermittently monitored via radiographs, to be sure it is progressing.

Body packers (ie, patients who have ingested wrapped packages of drugs to avoid detection during transport) are at risk of death if the packets rupture. Such patients should be hospitalized and whole-bowel irrigation considered. Consultation with a poison control center is suggested.

Did this answer your question?
Additional feedback? (Optional)
Thank you for your feedback!