Back to Basics: Foreign Body Ingestion

Back to Basics: Foreign Body Ingestion

Can you see it on X-ray?

  • Plastic & wood tend to be radiolucent (less seen on X-ray)
  • Stone & metal tend to be radiopaque (more seen on X-ray)
  • Glass depends on density

What’s the best imaging for foreign body?

  • US is excellent for superficially embedded
  • CT often visualizes radiolucent objects missed on X-ray
    • Provides better localization
    • Assesses for complications
    • IV contrast is recommended
    • Contrast enema suggested for rectal foreign bodies

What are the most common sites of foreign body ingestion?

  • Cricopharyngeus muscle is most common site of esophageal impaction
  • Right bronchial tree most common location for aspiration

What are some items that require emergent removal?

  • Blunt objects >2.5 cm wide or >6 cm long up to the pylorus (can generally pass after)
  • Button batteries
  • Multiple magnets or magnet-metal pair



Tseng HJ, Hanna TN, Shuaib W, et al. Imaging foreign bodies: ingested, aspirated and inserted. Ann Emerg Med. 2015; 66(6): 570-582.

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