Ingested and Aspirated Foreign Bodies

Pediatr Rev. 2015 Oct;36(10):430-6; quiz 437. doi: 10.1542/pir.36-10-430.


Esophageal and aspirated foreign bodies have important clinical significance, and both should be considered carefully when the history or physical examination findings raise sufficient suspicion. The published evidence regarding the diagnosis and management of foreign body ingestion or aspiration is weighted disproportionately with observational studies, case controls, expert opinion, and systematic reviews. Most of the publications would receive a categorization of C (observational studies including case-control and cohort design) and D (expert opinion, case reports, and clinical reasoning). One of the few prospective studies examining the diagnostic evaluation of foreign body aspiration in children could be considered level B evidence (randomized clinical trials, systematic reviews, or diagnostic studies with minor limitations). This study found that the medical history is the most important predictive part of the evaluation. There is evidence for considering bronchoscopy if there is significant history suggestive of foreign body aspiration, even in the setting of normal physical examination findings. (28). Most ingested foreign bodies spontaneously pass without incident. However, special attention should be paid to objects in the esophagus as well as to batteries and magnets. Based on a systematic review of the literature (level B evidence) and the potential for rapid and life-threatening damage, batteries in the esophagus should be removed immediately. (10) Other objects, such as coins, may be observed for passage in an asymptomatic patient. In addition, given the high risk of significant complications, ingestion of high-powered magnets should be quickly and carefully evaluated. Although single magnets are likely to pass without complication, multiple magnets or magnets ingested with other metal objects can cause significant damage and should be removed if there is any concern for mural entrapment, bowel perforation, or failure to progress. (10)(16)(17)(18)(19). Lastly, another systematic review of the literature (level B evidence) about the aspiration of food objects in children suggests that this is a significant public health concern with potentially devastating consequences. Despite clear legislation and regulation by the Consumer Product Safety Commission regarding toys, there is no similar regulation of high-risk foods. The data suggest that there is opportunity for improvement in legislation about the production and packaging of high-risk items as well as in the education of caregivers. (22)

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Child, Preschool
  • Esophagus*
  • Foreign Bodies / complications
  • Foreign Bodies / diagnosis*
  • Foreign Bodies / prevention & control
  • Foreign Bodies / therapy
  • Humans
  • Respiratory System*