Use of decubitus radiographs in the diagnosis of foreign body aspiration in young children

Dagnachew Assefa, Nikhil Amin, Gustavo Stringel, Allen J Dozor
Pediatric Emergency Care 2007, 23 (3): 154-7

BACKGROUND: Lateral decubitus radiographs are often obtained in young children with suspected foreign body aspiration. Their usefulness has not been well studied.

OBJECTIVES: To assess the value of decubitus radiographs in detecting foreign body aspiration in young children and compare their value to history and physical examination.

METHODS: Retrospective review of children younger than 4 years with suspected foreign body aspiration who had decubitus radiographs and underwent bronchoscopy over a 5-year period. Patients with proven foreign body aspiration were compared with those without foreign bodies for differences in symptoms, signs, location and character of the foreign body, and the diagnostic value of standard and decubitus chest radiographs.

RESULTS: Twenty-eight of 41 children who underwent bronchoscopy for possible foreign body aspiration had decubitus radiographs. Foreign bodies were identified in 22 patients (79%). A total of 27% of children with foreign body aspiration and 33% of children without a foreign body had suggestive decubitus radiographs (P = not significant). As a measure of detecting foreign body aspiration, positive decubitus radiographs had a sensitivity of 27%, a specificity of 67%, a positive predictive value of 75%, and a negative predictive value of 20%. The odds ratio of finding a foreign body with suggestive decubitus radiographs was 0.75 (95% confidence interval [CI], 0.1-5.2; P = 0.57). Foreign body aspiration was confirmed in 94% of children if there was both a sudden onset of symptoms and a witnessed choking episode (odds ratio, 13.3; 95% confidence interval, 1.3-138.9; P = 0.02).

CONCLUSION: Decubitus chest radiographs, at least as routinely performed and interpreted, seem to add little to the evaluation of young children with suspected foreign body aspiration. A history of a witnessed choking episode combined with a sudden onset of respiratory symptoms remains the most important indication for bronchoscopy.

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