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Foreign Body Removal

Both children and adults may accidentally ingest foreign bodies (i.e. foreign objects such as coins, batteries, toys, pins, dentures etc., and food items such as pieces of meat or bones [chicken or fish]). These items may get stuck or lodged at various locations in the gastrointestinal tract and all require removal. Other objects require removal even if they are not stuck due to their potential to cause injury. Examples include batteries lodged in the esophagus, and sharp or large foreign bodies of any kind.

In some cases, the presence and location of a foreign body may be determined by X-ray. In other cases foreign bodies are not visible by X-ray and require an endoscopic procedure for diagnosis. In addition to diagnostic purposes, endoscopy is used as a minimally invasive alternative to surgery for removal of foreign objects in the GI tract. Foreign bodies may be removed by both upper endoscopy (EGD) and colonoscopy depending on their location. Some foreign bodies which are not stuck in the GI tract do not require removal and may pass on their own under physician supervision. In these cases, serial X-rays may be helpful for monitoring the passage of radiopaque objects (those able to be seen with X-rays) and documenting their evacuation from the intestine.

Because recommendations for therapy vary based on patient’s age, size, type of foreign body, location of foreign body and symptoms, individuals should contact their physician or gastroenterologist in every case of foreign body ingestion.

Reviewed August 2014