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Tracheobronchial aspiration of foreign bodies and rigid bronchoscopy in children


Murat Oncel, MD, Division of Thoracic Surgery, Selçuklu Faculty of Medicine, Selçuk University, 42110 Selçuklu Konya, Turkey. Email:


Background:  A significant proportion of cases of tracheobronchial foreign body aspiration due to life-threatening condition is observed during childhood. The aim of the present study was to describe our experience with the diagnosis and treatment of foreign body aspirations during childhood and review published literature.

Methods:  One hundred and eighty-four patients under 16 years of age with a tentative diagnosis of foreign body aspiration were retrospectively evaluated according to age, sex, patient delay symptoms at presentation, foreign body type, localization and the diagnostic and therapeutic methods used.

Results:  The most frequently aspirated objects were shelled nuts and seeds such as sunflower seeds, pistachio and hazelnuts. The chief symptom was cough. On physical examination, the most frequent findings were unilateral decrease of respiratory sound on the affected side with coarsening and bronchi. While 51% of cases presented a radiological finding, chest X-ray was normal in the other. All patients underwent rigid bronchoscopy under general anesthesia and a foreign body was identified in 137 (74.3%). The rigid bronchoscopy intervention was used in some cases, especially in the presence of tracheal foreign bodies of organic origin.

Conclusions:  Tracheobronchial foreign body aspiration is a significant cause of childhood morbidity and mortality. Early diagnosis and treatment is of utmost importance. Rigid bronchoscopy under general anesthesia should be performed in all patients suspected of foreign body aspiration, which could minimize mortality and morbidity if performed by experienced personnel with safe methods.

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