Objective: Timely and experienced intervention for esophageal foreign bodies generally allows for removal with minimal morbidity. However, esophageal foreign bodies present a risk for esophageal perforation and subsequent mediastinitis, especially if the diagnosis of the foreign body is delayed. Although much has been written about the management of esophageal foreign bodies and their complications, little has been mentioned in recent literature about the specific complication of mediastinitis. This review was performed to examine our experience with this uncommon complication of esophageal foreign bodies.
Methods: A retrospective review of the esophageal foreign body database at Children's Hospital of Wisconsin from 1987 to 1997 was performed to identify patients with esophageal foreign bodies and subsequent mediastinitis.
Results: Four patients with esophageal perforation with associated mediastinitis secondary to retained esophageal foreign bodies were identified. Three of the four patients were treated with conservative measures consisting of foreign body removal, intravenous antibiotics and discontinuing of oral nutrition. These patients all achieved resolution of their mediastinitis and esophageal perforation with subsequent return to normal diets and no significant morbidity. One patient, with vascular erosion, required aggressive, invasive therapy.
Conclusion: From review of this limited number of patients, in the absence of major vascular erosion, conservative methods of treating children with foreign body esophageal perforation and subsequent mediastinitis appears to be effective.