Esophageal foreign bodies

P G Brady
Gastroenterology Clinics of North America 1991, 20 (4): 691-701
Foreign body ingestion is a common occurrence in children and in specific high-risk groups of adults such as those with underlying esophageal disease, prisoners, the mentally retarded, and those with psychiatric illnesses. Although most foreign bodies pass through the gastrointestinal tract without difficulty, sharp, pointed, and elongated foreign bodies are associated with a greater risk of perforation, vascular penetration, and other complications. Foreign body ingestion is usually diagnosed based on a history of ingestion given by the patient or an observer. However, children and impaired adults may be unable to give an accurate history, and a high index of suspicion must be maintained in these groups. Dysphagia and odynophagia are the usual symptoms of foreign body impaction in the esophagus. Respiratory symptoms due to compression of the adjacent trachea are also common in younger children and are occasionally the presenting symptom in adults. The preferred method of removal of esophageal foreign bodies is extraction with the flexible endoscope. This may be accomplished in both adults and children with the use of conscious sedation rather than general anesthesia. The availability of grasping instruments specifically designed for foreign body removal and snares greatly facilitates endoscopic extraction. An overtube conveys all of the advantages of the rigid esophagoscope to the flexible endoscope, enabling extraction of sharp and pointed foreign bodies while protecting the mucosa from injury. Adherence to the general principles of foreign body removal and proper preparation result in successful removal rates as high as 98%, with minimal or no complications. Nonendoscopic methods of removal are associated with increased risks of perforation and aspiration and generally should be avoided, with the exception of a trial of intravenous glucagon. Surgical removal is rarely indicated except in the event of perforation or other foreign body complications.

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