Tracheobronchial foreign bodies in children: importance of accurate history and plain chest radiography in delayed presentation

Clin Radiol. 2004 Jul;59(7):609-15. doi: 10.1016/j.crad.2004.01.006.


Aim: To evaluate the factors associated with delayed diagnosis of foreign body aspiration (FBA) in children and to compare clinical, radiological and bronchoscopic findings in the patients with suspected FBA.

Material and methods: The medical records of 214 children who underwent bronchoscopy for suspected FBA were reviewed. The data were analysed in three groups: the patients with negative bronchoscopy for FBA (group I), early (group II) and delayed diagnosis (group III).

Results: The majority of the patients with FBA were between 1 and 3 years of age. Choking episodes, coughing and decreased breath sounds were determined in a significantly higher number of the patients with FBA. The plain chest radiography revealed radio-opaque foreign bodies (FBs) in 19.7% of all patients with FBA. Emphysema was more common in children with FBA. Clinical and radiological findings of pneumonia and atelectasis were significantly more common in the groups with negative bronchoscopy and with delayed diagnosis (p < 0.01). The FBs were most frequently of vegetable origin, such as seeds and peanuts. A significant tissue reaction with inflammation was more common in the delayed cases.

Conclusion: To prevent delayed diagnosis, characteristic symptoms, signs and radiological findings of FBA should be checked in all suspected cases. As clinical and radiological findings of FBA in delayed cases may mimic other disorders, the clinician must be aware of the likelihood of FBA. Regardless of radiological findings, bronchoscopy should be considered in patients with an appropriate history.

MeSH terms

  • Airway Obstruction / etiology
  • Bronchi*
  • Bronchoscopy / methods
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Foreign Bodies / diagnostic imaging*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Inhalation
  • Male
  • Medical History Taking / standards*
  • Pneumonia / diagnostic imaging
  • Pulmonary Emphysema / diagnostic imaging
  • Radiography
  • Respiratory Sounds / etiology
  • Time Factors
  • Trachea*