Background: Caustic ingestion is frequent in children, sometimes leading to esophageal stricture.
Patients and methods: Between 1988 and 1994, esogastroscopy was performed in 65 children after caustic ingestion. The children were classified in three groups: no lesion (group A), minimal lesions (group B) and severe lesions (group C). Nature of the caustic substance, clinical signs and evolution were compared in the three groups.
Results: Median age was 2 years for the 65 children (24 girls, 41 boys). Ingestion occurred at home (94%) during meal periods. Substances were dishwater detergents (n = 14), oven cleaner (n = 10), bleach (n = 9), washing powder (n = 4), others (n = 20), more often in a liquid form (n = 37) than solid (n = 28). Children had no symptoms (57%), presented emesis (n = 20) or abdominal pain (n = 10) not correlated to endoscopic findings, and hematemesis (n = 3) or respiratory distress (n = 4), both symptoms seen only in group C. Buccal lesions (41%) were not correlated to endoscopic findings. After endoscopy, 28 children (43%) were classified into group A and 20 children (31%) in group B. Among the 17 children (26%) of the group C, eight developed an esophageal stricture: seven long strictures requiring replacement of the esophagus, one short stricture requiring repeated dilations.
Conclusion: Esophageal stricture is still a severe complication after caustic ingestion. These data stress the interest of controlled studies to confirm the preventive role of high dose corticosteroids, and the importance of the prevention of accidental caustic ingestions in children.