In our series of 400 Chinese children with foreign body aspiration (FBA), 343 cases were evaluated by fluoroscopy and/or plain chest X-rays before endoscopic removal of the foreign bodies. The majority of the foreign bodies (FBs) were organic (378/400, 94.5 per cent). The results showed that mainstem bronchial foreign bodies were diagnosed correctly in 68 per cent of cases compared with 65 per cent correct diagnoses with segmental bronchial foreign bodies, but only 22 per cent correct diagnoses with tracheal, and 0 per cent correct diagnosis in those with laryngeal foreign bodies. Eighty per cent (32/40) of the children with laryngotracheal FBs had normal X-ray findings, whereas 67.7 per cent (205/303) of the children with bronchial FBs had abnormal chest X-ray findings. The most common positive radiological signs in the children with tracheobronchial FBs were obstructive emphysema (131/213, 62 per cent) and mediastinal shift (117/213, 55 per cent). The incidence of major complications was related not only to the size of the foreign body and its location but also the duration since aspiration. The most common types of bronchial obstructions by airway FBs are discussed.