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Late presentation of tracheobronchial foreign body aspiration in children.

The diagnosis of tracheobronchial foreign body (FB) aspiration in children is often delayed or overlooked. The aim of this study is to examine the causes of delay (>1 month) in the diagnosis and to study the complications of late presentation and their management. During the period between July 1993 and August 2002, 128 patients with suspected FB aspiration were admitted to KKUH, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Twenty-eight patients out of 128 patients presented late (>1 month). The medical records of those 28 patients were reviewed in respect to: history of FB aspiration, physical signs of symptoms, reason for delayed presentation, radiological investigation, complications and their management, and follow-up. There were 16 males and 12 females; the average age was 3.28 years (range 1--11 years). All of them experienced chronic cough at presentation. Thirteen (48 per cent) children had a history suggestive of FB aspiration. Seventeen (63 per cent) children presented with complications that included pneumonia (n=13), bronchiectasis (n=3), and bronchoesophageal fistula (n=1). The diagnostic delay was attributed to physician misdiagnosis (n=9), failure by parents to seek early medical advice (n=4), patients left against medical advice (n=1), and the cause of delay was unknown in the remaining 14 children. Rigid bronchoscopy was performed in all patients. FB was found in all cases except four. Complications were treated as follows: pneumonia with intravenous antibiotics, bronchiectasis conservatively and bronchoesophageal fistula repaired surgically. Follow-up ranged from 6 to 48 months. Diagnostic delay of tracheobronchial FB aspiration has significant morbidity in children. A high index of suspicion and early referral are essential in preventing such complications.

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