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Singapore Med J. 2005 Apr;46(4):172-8.

Otorhinolaryngeal foreign bodies in children presenting to the emergency department.

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Department of Emergency Medicine, Singapore General Hospital, Outram Road, Singapore 169608.



Accidents with foreign bodies are common in the paediatric population. It is impossible to mandate that all foreign bodies (FB) in the ear, nose and throat (ENT) of children should be removed by the specialty-trained physicians. This study evaluates the management of ENT FB removal in children achieved by emergency physicians not trained in otolaryngology in an urban tertiary care paediatric emergency department.


A retrospective study was conducted on consecutive paediatric patients presenting with suspected foreign body in the ear, nose or throat to the children's emergency department (ED) of KK Women's and Children's Hospital over a 10-month period. Removal methods, foreign body types, rates of successful removal and associated complications were evaluated.


There were 353 patients, most of whom presented after office hours. An attempt at removal of FB by the emergency physician was made in 76.8 percent of the cases. ENT specialist referral in the ED was made in 1.7 percent of the cases. 50.1 percent of cases were discharged after successful removal of FB in the ED. 4.2 percent of cases were admitted for removal of FB and 44.8 percent of cases were referred to the ENT specialist clinic for further assessment.


The emergency physician managed most cases in the ED and urgent referral to ENT specialists was not required. Complications and morbidity often occur from repeated attempts at removal of the FB. ENT opinion should be sought whenever there is doubt. The ED physician should be skilled in techniques of FB removal, especially throat FB, which had the lowest rate of success in our study.

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