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Chronic esophageal foreign bodies in pediatric patients: a retrospective review.

OBJECTIVE: Chronic esophageal foreign bodies (CEFB) are associated with a high incidence of morbidity and mortality in adults. However, the presentation, management and outcome of chronic esophageal foreign bodies in children are not well described.

METHODS: We performed a retrospective chart review of children with chronic esophageal foreign bodies admitted to the Children's Hospital Medical Center, Cincinnati, OH, between May 1990 and January 2002. A chronic esophageal foreign body was defined as a foreign body estimated to have been present for over 1 week.

RESULTS: Over the inclusion period, 522 children were admitted with esophageal foreign bodies, 41 (8%) of which were chronic. The most common foreign bodies were coins. Seventy-six percent of patients presented with a primary complaint of respiratory symptoms, with respiratory distress being the most common followed by asthmatic symptoms and cough. Twenty-two percent of patients had primarily gastrointestinal symptoms including nausea/vomiting and dysphagia. One patient was asymptomatic on presentation. A perforated esophagus was identified in 18 patients, with 17 of these being a technically perforated esophagus and one case being a classic esophageal perforation. There were no deaths or permanent morbidity in this series.

CONCLUSIONS: Respiratory symptoms are more common than gastrointestinal symptoms in pediatric patients with chronic esophageal foreign bodies. Removal by rigid esophagoscopy is recommended. A small proportion of cases require open removal of the foreign body. Conservative management is appropriate for the technically perforated esophagus. A good outcome should be anticipated for the majority of cases.

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