Pediatric Esophageal Foreign Body: Possible Role for Digital Tomosynthesis

Pediatr Emerg Care. 2021 Apr 1;37(4):208-212. doi: 10.1097/PEC.0000000000001517.


Objectives: Foreign body (FB) ingestion is a common reason for emergency department visits, affecting more than 80,000 children in the United States annually. Whereas most ingested FBs are coins or other radiopaque objects, some are radiolucent FBs such as food. Digital tomosynthesis (DTS) is a radiographic technique that produces cross-sectional images with in-plane resolution similar to that of traditional radiographs. Our pilot study evaluated the sensitivity and specificity of DTS to detect FB in comparison to esophagram and clinical impression.

Methods: This was a retrospective review on patients aged 0 to 18 years with suspected esophageal FB who received an esophagram with DTS at our institution between January 2014 and June 2016. Digital tomosynthesis images were analyzed by 3 readers for identification of FB impaction and compared with esophagram and discharge diagnosis. This study was approved by our local institutional review board.

Results: A total of 17 patients underwent an esophagography with DTS for suspected esophageal FB, of which 9 (53%) were suspected of having an FB on esophagram. Compared with esophagram, DTS had a sensitivity of 44%, specificity of 100%, positive predictive value of 100%, and negative predictive value of 62%. Compared with clinical impression, DTS had a sensitivity of 33%, specificity of 100%, positive predictive value of 100%, and negative predictive value of 38%.

Conclusions: This pilot study showed that chest DTS has a very high positive predictive value, compared with esophagram and clinical impression, in detecting radiolucent esophageal FBs in children. Chest DTS is a promising modality for ruling in the presence of a radiolucent esophageal FB.

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Foreign Bodies* / diagnostic imaging
  • Humans
  • Pilot Projects
  • Radiography
  • Retrospective Studies