Overall, 80% of foreign objects can be pooped out with no medical intervention! However, about 19% need to be removed endoscopically (with a tube), and 1% of patients will need to have the foreign object removed by surgery.
The most commonly ingested foreign bodies in adults are fish bones (45%), meat bones (40%), and dentures (5%). Other more rare foreign bodies make up the remainder.
In children, coins are the most commonly found foreign object, followed by sewing pins, safety pins and hair clips.
If a sharp object is in the esophagus as shown by x-ray studies, it must be removed. But if it has already passed out of the esophagus, it will usually pass on it’s own, even safety pins! There is a Golden Rule in medicine that if an object is longer than 6 cm with diameter of more than 2.5 cm, it will likely NOT pass on its own. If a patient has pain or vomiting after swallowing a foreign object, further investigation is always warranted.
Button batteries pose a special risk in children, as they cause an alkaline reaction, and can result in serious internal burns. In the United States, a child swallows a button battery every 3 hours!
Whenever a foreign body is accidentally swallowed, a call to the doctor is important to determine the next best step.
Ingested button battery in child: