Diagnosis of Pediatric Foreign Body Ingestion: Clinical Presentation, Physical Examination, and Radiologic Findings

Jacquelyn R Sink, Dennis J Kitsko, Deepak K Mehta, Matthew W Georg, Jeffrey P Simons
Annals of Otology, Rhinology, and Laryngology 2016, 125 (4): 342-50

OBJECTIVES: (1) To describe clinical and radiologic findings in patients with esophageal foreign bodies. (2) To examine the sensitivity and specificity of history, physical examination, and radiologic studies in children with suspected foreign body ingestion.

METHODS: A retrospective cohort study was performed evaluating all children who underwent esophagoscopy for suspected foreign body ingestion at our institution from 2006 to 2013.

RESULTS: Five hundred forty-three patients were included (54% male). Average age was 4.7 years (SD = 4.1 years). Foreign bodies were identified on esophagoscopy in 497 cases (92%). Ingestion was witnessed in 23% of cases. Most common presenting symptoms were choking/gagging (49%), vomiting (47%), and dysphagia/odynophagia (42%). Most patients with foreign bodies had a normal exam (76%). Most foreign bodies were radiopaque (83%). In 59% of patients with normal chest radiographs, a foreign body was present. Sensitivity and specificity of 1 or more findings on history, physical examination, and imaging were 99% and 0%, 21% and 76%, and 83% and 100%, respectively.

CONCLUSIONS: Most patients with esophageal foreign bodies are symptomatic. Although many patients will have a normal physical examination, an abnormal exam should increase suspicion for a foreign body. Most esophageal foreign bodies are radiopaque, but a normal chest radiograph cannot rule out a foreign body.

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