Tracheobronchial foreign bodies in infants

A M Shubha, Kanishka Das
International Journal of Pediatric Otorhinolaryngology 2009, 73 (10): 1385-9

OBJECTIVE: Tracheobronchial foreign body aspiration (FBA) is a common cause of respiratory distress between 1 and 3 years of age. Literature on airway foreign bodies in this age group is abundant; however no study has addressed this problem in infants exclusively. This study aimed to review the clinical presentation, management and outcome of infants with tracheobronchial foreign bodies at a referral tertiary care hospital over a decade.

METHODS: 102 infants who underwent bronchoscopy for suspected FBA from 1997 to 2007 were retrospectively reviewed. Details of demographic data, clinical features, radiologic and bronchoscopic findings, postbronchoscopy events and eventual outcome were analysed.

RESULTS: The mean age was 10.5 months. 8 (7.8%) were 0-6 months of age, the youngest being 2 months. Males outnumbered (72:30) females. 10 (9.8%) presented secondarily after treatment elsewhere, 6 of them were initially misdiagnosed. The onset-presentation interval ranged from 1 day to 3 months, 41 (40.2%) reporting within a day and 19 (18.6%) a week after onset. 20 (19.6%) had no history suggestive of FBA but harboured airway FBs at bronchoscopy. The clinical triad of cough, respiratory distress and stridor was highly predictive of FBA. 8 (7.84%) had no abnormal physical findings while 8 (10.81%) had grossly normal chest radiographs. All the patients underwent emergency/elective rigid bronchoscopy (Karl Storz system) under general anesthesia as in-patients. The physical findings did not always correlate with radiology or bronchoscopic location of the FB. A peanut cotyledon was the commonest FB retrieved across infancy; in 5 (4.9%) no FB was found/identifiable. 2 required postbronchoscopy mechanical ventilation and 1 a repeat bronchoscopy. There were 6 complications but no mortality in the series. The average hospital stay was 1.4 days. At a week's follow-up, all were asymptomatic and well.

CONCLUSIONS: The clinical presentation, diagnosis and management of FBA in 102 infants are presented and certain peculiar features are described. A high index of suspicion coupled with a combination of history, physical signs and radiology is more conclusive than any of them in isolation. Availability of expertise and endoscopic equipment ensures a favourable outcome without significant morbidity and mortality.

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