Occult coin perforation of the esophagus

J Pediatr Surg. 1986 Sep;21(9):794-7. doi: 10.1016/s0022-3468(86)80370-0.


Only a small number of ingested foreign bodies perforate the esophagus and even a smaller fraction migrate extraluminally with no symptoms. Both of these events are even rarer after coin ingestion. Between 1972 and 1984, three children (16 months to 5 years), who had unabating upper respiratory symptoms, were found to have ingested coins. In only one child could the time interval between ingestion and appearance of symptoms (3 years) be established, and in this child the diagnosis was delayed because of failure to x-ray the chest after an ingestion episode. Surgical evaluation included chest/neck films: tracheal and esophageal shadows were separated by the object and a soft tissue mass; esphagogram: deviation of the esophagus, irregularity of the lumen, and no leak or tracheoesophageal fistula (TEF) and esophagoscopy: mucosa was intact with no direct visualization of the coin. Treatment consisted of exploration: cervical, one; thoracic, two; localization: coin in extraluminal granulomatous soft tissue; removal: without resection of the soft tissue mass or esophagus, and drainage: penrose, one; chest tube, two. There was no morbidity or mortality from 1 to 13 years later. Though generally harmless, ingested coins are capable of penetrating the esophagus. Sporadic literature reports confirm that the clinical findings and operative results are typical of this seemingly intermediate stage between perforation with mediastinitis and perforation with TEF.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Child, Preschool
  • Esophageal Perforation / etiology*
  • Esophagus*
  • Female
  • Foreign Bodies / complications*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male