Hard to swallow: a systematic review of deliberate foreign body ingestion

Gen Hosp Psychiatry. 2011 Sep-Oct;33(5):518-24. doi: 10.1016/j.genhosppsych.2011.06.011. Epub 2011 Aug 17.


Objective: Deliberate foreign body ingestion (DFBI) is often impulsively driven, repetitive and refractory to intervention and frequently necessitates multiple medical interventions. As such, the frustrations among health care providers are great, and the financial toll on health care is significant. Nevertheless, the literature on DFBI is sparse, and suggestions for treatment planning and management are limited. The authors sought to investigate and uncover efficacious treatments and strategies for preventing reoccurrence in DFBI. We build on earlier work by offering both broad and diagnosis-specific management strategies.

Method: A literature review was performed addressing the presentation, management and prevention of reoccurrences of DFBI. Four cases of DFBI are presented illustrating those psychiatric diagnoses (psychosis, malingering, obsessive-compulsive disorder and borderline personality disorder) most frequently encountered in hospital practice. Both broad and specific treatment approaches are presented.

Results: Patients engaging in DFBI are best managed through a multidisciplinary approach, following acute medical management. Successful strategies for the prevention of reoccurrences of DFBI are inconclusive.

Conclusion: Understanding the function of this behavior is critical in developing treatment for patients who engage in these dangerous, potentially life-threatening, self-injurious behaviors. An amalgam of medical, pharmacological and cognitive-behavioral interventions is recommended, as is additional research.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Eating
  • Female
  • Foreign Bodies / psychology*
  • Health Care Costs
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / diagnosis
  • Mental Disorders / economics
  • Mental Disorders / psychology*
  • Mental Disorders / therapy*
  • Self-Injurious Behavior / diagnosis
  • Self-Injurious Behavior / economics
  • Self-Injurious Behavior / psychology*
  • Self-Injurious Behavior / therapy*
  • Treatment Outcome