Swallowed Foreign Bodies

Wade R. Gaasch Robert A. Barish

Pathophysiology C.linical.Presentation




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Swallowed foreign bodies, a common presentation in emergency departments, can be innocuous or life-threatening. In the United States, approximately 1500 people die yearly as a result of ingesting foreign bodies. Often thought to be confined to the pediatric population, foreign body ingestion occurs in all age groups. The pediatric age group accounts for approximately 80 percent of all cases, followed by edentulous adults, prisoners, and psychiatric patients. The presence of dentures eliminates the tactile sensitivity of the palatal surface vital to the identification of small items. A correlation exists between age groups and specific types of ingested material. Children most often ingest coins, toys, crayons, and ballpoint pen caps; adults tend to have problems with meat and bones. 1 In addition, psychiatric patients and prison inmates may ingest such unlikely objects as spoons and razor blades.

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