Background: It is unclear whether symptoms alone can identify patients with caustic ingestion who will benefit from esophagogastroduodenoscopy (EGD). The published data are contradictory. The purpose of the current study was to determine the relationship between initial symptoms and EGD findings in patients with caustic ingestion.
Methods: Chart review of all caustic ingestions who underwent EGD during a 4-year period (December 1993 through November 1997).
Results: Twenty-eight patients (15 girls; mean age, 2.7 years (range, 0.92-13.33) underwent EGD after caustic ingestion. Fourteen percent (4/28) of patients were asymptomatic, and findings on endoscopy were normal. Another 57% (16/28) had normal endoscopic findings, although all were symptomatic. Twenty-nine percent (8/28) of patients had esophageal injury on EGD, and all were symptomatic. Esophageal injury was graded as 1 (mucosal erythema), 2 (superficial burns; noncircumferential) or 3 (deep burns; circumferential). The injury was grade 1 in three of eight patients and grade 2 in two; all had one symptom each. Grade 3 injury was found in three of eight patients: two had two symptoms (drooling and vomiting, drooling and stridor), and one had one symptom (dysphagia). All patients with grade 3 injury subsequently underwent esophageal dilations. Follow-up information was secured for two of the three patients with grade 1 injury and both patients with grade 2 injury at 34.3 months (range, 24-50) after the ingestion, and all were asymptomatic. Of the 20 patients with absence of esophageal mucosal damage, follow-up data were available for 15 patients at 37.2 months (range, 7-63) after the event and all were well.
Conclusions: All patients with clinically significant injury (grades 2 and 3) were symptomatic at initial assessment. No single symptom or combination of symptoms could identify all patients with esophageal injury. All asymptomatic patients had normal findings on endoscopic examinations. Esophagogastroduodenoscopy seems unnecessary in asymptomatic patients with alleged caustic ingestion. A larger, prospective study would be necessary to unequivocally answer this clinically important question.