Late diagnosis of foreign body aspiration in children with chronic respiratory symptoms

Int J Pediatr Otorhinolaryngol. 2007 Feb;71(2):241-6. doi: 10.1016/j.ijporl.2006.10.006. Epub 2006 Nov 27.


Background: Children with undiagnosed and retained foreign bodies (FBs) may present with persistent respiratory symptoms. Delayed diagnosis is an important problem in developing countries and several factors affect the delay.

Objectives: To investigate, the incidence of clinically unsuspected foreign body aspiration (FBA) in our flexible bronchoscopy procedures, the causes resulting in late diagnosis of FBA, and the incidence of the complications of FBA according to elapsed time between aspiration and diagnosis.

Methods: We reviewed the records of all the patients who underwent flexible bronchoscopy between 1997 and 2004 in our clinic. Patients with FBA were identified and their medical records were reviewed.

Results: During the study period, 654 children underwent flexible bronchoscopy; 32 cases (4.8%) of FBA were identified. Median age of patients was 29.5 months at presentation with a median symptomatic period of 3 months. None of the patients had a history of FBA. The most common misdiagnosis was bronchitis. Flexible bronchoscopy was performed to these patients within 1 week following presentation. In 87% of the patients (n=28), FBs were in organic nature. Patients were followed up for 21.0 months after removal of the FBs. Fifty-three percent (n=17) of the patients had a complete remission after bronchoscopic removal of the FBs. However, nine (28.8%) patients had chronic respiratory problems and six patients (18.8%) developed bronchiectasis.

Conclusions: Atypical or prolonged respiratory symptoms should alert the physician and clinical and radiological findings should be carefully evaluated for a possible FBA. Delay in diagnosis and treatment of FBA should be avoided to prevent complications.

MeSH terms

  • Bronchitis / diagnosis*
  • Bronchoscopy
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Chronic Disease
  • Diagnostic Errors
  • Female
  • Foreign Bodies / complications
  • Foreign Bodies / diagnosis*
  • Foreign Bodies / surgery
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Respiratory Aspiration / complications
  • Respiratory Aspiration / diagnosis*
  • Respiratory Aspiration / surgery
  • Respiratory System*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Time Factors