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Eur J Cardiothorac Surg. 2002 Apr;21(4):653-6.

Management of esophageal foreign bodies: a retrospective review of 400 cases.

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Department of Thoracic Surgery, General Hospital of Nikea, Piraeus, Greece.



A retrospective study was conducted in 400 patients with esophageal foreign bodies (EFB) to assess characteristics of EFB and methods of treatment.


From 1962 through 1998, 400 patients with EFB were treated in our department on an emergency basis. There were 202 men (50%) and 198 women (49.6%) ranging in age from 1.5 to 95 years. The main symptoms patients complained of were difficulty in swallowing and pain. Detailed anamnesis, oropharynx and hypopharynx examination and finally radiological examination were the diagnostic tools. The location of the FB was in the cervical esophagus in 57% of cases, in the thoracic one in 26% and at the cardioesophageal junction in 17%. The most common objects found were bones, morsels, coins and needles.


The treatment consisted of rigid esophagoscopy under general anesthesia in 343 (85.7%) of our cases. In 57 cases (14.3%) other means such as flexible esophagoscopy, Fogarty or Foley catheters and bougienage turned to be very useful. Only 12 patients (3%) were led to surgery because either extraction was impossible or perforation was present. No major complications occurred in the surgical group, whereas in the group of rigid esophagoscopy, there was one iatrogenous esophageal perforation that presented with empyema thoracis successfully treated. Finally, there was a case of an aortoesophageal fistula with mortal outcome perioperatively.


(1) Esophagoscopy is a reliable method in the treatment of EFB impaction. (2) Alternative methods such as bougienage, etc., can be used only in selected cases with smooth foreign bodies. (3) Surgical treatment is unavoidable in cases of irretrievable EFB or esophageal perforation.

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