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Swallowed Foreign Bodies

Swallowed Foreign Objects
Swallowed foreign bodies are small objects that can get stuck in the gastrointestinal tract and sometimes perforate it. Foreign bodies are like intruders that interfere with the normal mechanism of the human body, causing symptoms and occasionally complications.

What are swollen foreign bodies?

Foreign bodies can be accidentally or intentionally ingested. Babies may swallow small round foods (such as grapes, peanuts, or candy) that can get stuck. In addition, curious infants and toddlers often swallow a variety of inedible objects (such as pennies and disc or button batteries), some of which get stuck in the esophagus.

Sometimes foreign bodies are ingested on purpose, for example, drug couriers swallow balloons, wrappers, or vials filled with illegal substances to avoid detection.

If those undigestible items are small in size, they pass through the digestive tract and are eliminated with stool. Foreign bodies cause symptoms depending on their nature and where they get stuck, sporadically causing obstruction, ulceration, or bleeding.

Complications

Complications of a swallowed foreign body depend upon the nature of the object and its location inside the gastrointestinal tract. 

Foreign bodies can cause erosion, abrasion, scarring, or perforations. A foreign body in the esophagus can migrate and cause chest or abdominal inflammation, lung problems or other respiratory symptoms. 

Foreign bodies like batteries can cause substantial chemical injury to the mucosal surface of the gastrointestinal tract, whereas ingested magnets can attract other metallic objects and can cause ulceration and pressures necrosis.

Etiology

Swallowed foreign bodies can be divided into several groups depending upon their nature. Some of the common groups of foreign bodies are as follows:

  • Coins
  • Button batteries
  • Blunt objects
  • Sharp pointed objects

Treatment Options 

Among foreign bodies that reach the stomach, 80-90% pass spontaneously into the gastrointestinal tract, 10-20% require nonsurgical intervention, and ≤ 1% require surgical treatment. Many ingested foreign bodies can be dealt with at home or at urgent care.  In the case where an emergency room or hospital visit is required, there are multiple stages of treatment. Treatment stages can be divided into prehospital treatment, hospital treatment, follow-up, and household care.

Prehospital management mainly involves patient transportation, but symptoms and issues such as drooling of saliva can be resolved through suction. However, no attempt should be made to dislodge the foreign bodies.

Emergency hospital management involves relieving the symptoms and checking for airway, breathing, and circulation. Attempts should be made to locate the foreign bodies using detectors or endoscopes. The foreign objects at the level of the esophagus can be managed by pushing them forward with the help of specialized surgical instruments. Catheters can be used to remove foreign bodies as well. Many objects, if they have reached the stomach level, may pass spontaneously through the GI tract, and pass out alongside the stool.

Sharp objects are dangerous and may require endoscopic guided removal. Whole bowel irrigation is carried out in patients where the patient has ingested packs containing drugs and other objects as they may rupture and cause serious issues.

Surgical care may be required severe cases. 

Facial abrasions and considered more serious as these have a higher risk of cicatrization and should be cleaned, debrided, and dressed daily. Dressings may require skin adhesives like the combination of gum mastic, styrax, alcohol, and methyl salicylate or tincture of benzoin.

Contact us

In case of urgent medical care assistance, AfterOurs Urgent Care offers immediate telemedicine services, where medical providers are available to offer assistance. Anyone who experiences signs and symptoms requiring urgent medical attention can simply book their appointment with AfterOurs Urgent Care to directly talk to an expert. If your medical issue is not appropriate for telemedicine, we will let you know and refer you to an in-person facility.

When to visit a doctor:

If you ingest any foreign body by mistake, you should see a medical provider in order to avoid possible serious complications. 

Treatment for swallowed foreign bodies is available at AfterOurs Urgent Care.