What is the role of imaging studies in the workup of caustic ingestions?

Updated: Dec 09, 2020
  • Author: Derrick Lung, MD, MPH, FACEP, FACMT; Chief Editor: David Vearrier, MD, MPH  more...
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Answer

Obtain an upright chest radiograph in all cases of caustic ingestion. Findings may include pneumomediastinum or other findings suggestive of mediastinitis, pleural effusions, pneumoperitoneum, aspiration pneumonitis, or a button battery (metallic foreign body). However, the absence of such findings does not preclude perforation or other significant injury.

Abdominal radiographic findings may include pneumoperitoneum, ascites, or an ingested button battery (metallic foreign body). If contrast studies are obtained, water-soluble contrast agents are recommended because they are less irritating to the tissues in cases of perforation.

Computed tomography (CT) scans will often be able to delineate small amounts of extraluminal air, not seen on plain radiographs.

Chirica et al cite CT as superior to traditional endoscopy for helping to decide whether patients require emergency resection or observation. [1]  Similarly, Bruzzi et al reported that emergency CT outperforms endoscopy in predicting esophageal stricture formation after caustic ingestion. [9]

On the other hand, Lurie et al evaluated the role of chest and abdominal CT in assessing the severity of acute corrosive ingestion and concluded that CT should not be the only basis for surgical decisions during the initial phase of acute corrosive ingestions. They noted that CT can underestimate the severity of corrosive ingestion as compared with endoscopy. In their retrospective study of 23 patients, endoscopy findings were graded as 0, 1, 2a, 2b, 3a, and 3b (Zargar criteria); and CT findings were graded as 0, 1, 2, and 3. Endoscopy grading was found to be higher than CT grading in 14 patients (66%). [10]


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