Tracheobronchial foreign bodies in adults

Ann Intern Med. 1990 Apr 15;112(8):604-9. doi: 10.7326/0003-4819-112-8-604.


Study objective: To define the clinical spectrum of tracheobronchial foreign body aspiration in adults, assess predisposing conditions, evaluate the efficacy of bronchoscopy, and determine outcome and complications.

Design: Retrospective analysis of a consecutive clinical series.

Setting: A tertiary care, referral-based medical center.

Patients: Sixty consecutive adult patients (over 16 years of age) evaluated for tracheobronchial foreign body aspiration.

Interventions: All 60 patients had bronchoscopic evaluation; 59 of them had foreign bodies identified and removal was attempted using either rigid or flexible fiberoptic bronchoscopy.

Main results: Of 60 consecutive patients, 25 had underlying impairment of protective airway mechanisms (primary neurologic disorders, trauma with loss of consciousness, or sedative or alcohol use). Fifty-seven were successfully managed with bronchoscopy. Fiberoptic bronchoscopy was successful in 14 of 23 patients, and rigid bronchoscopy was successful in 43 of 44 patients, including 6 of 7 patients in whom previous fiberoptic bronchoscopy had failed. Thoracotomy was required in 3 patients. Complications of bronchoscopy were rare and not serious. Chronic complications of prolonged foreign body impaction included bronchiectasis in 3 patients.

Conclusions: Although rare, tracheobronchial foreign body aspiration in adults can occur in various clinical settings. High clinical suspicion is necessary for diagnosis. Removal of foreign bodies can usually be accomplished with bronchoscopy.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Bronchi*
  • Bronchography
  • Bronchoscopy
  • Female
  • Foreign Bodies* / complications
  • Foreign Bodies* / diagnostic imaging
  • Foreign Bodies* / therapy
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Trachea* / diagnostic imaging