Foreign Bodies

The list of foreign bodies that have been swallowed seems endless. If it can get into the mouth, then it has been swallowed at some time or other by somebody. Children are notorious for placing objects in their mouths, and huge numbers swallow coins, marbles or beads. Pins and needles are also relatively common. Prisoners often swallow seemingly lethal objects (pins, razorblades, metal objects) in an effort to gain admission to hospital where conditions are marginally better.

The majority of items are passed through the bowel system unchanged, and are passed with little difficulty. Even large needles, pins and opened safety pins have been passed in this manner. But sometimes they become stuck, particularly if there is a narrowed part of the bowel. Needles have been known to work their way through the bloodstream to be ejected later at the knee! After years in practice, most doctors can give accounts of some amazing happenings.

Hair is often chewed up and swallowed. This has difficulty in passing the pyloric valve leading from the stomach, so it tends to accumulate. It may be discovered as a mass of tarry material, in the shape of a ball.

Many people have a predilection for deliberately placing foreign objects in the anus and into the rectum. The medical journals have reported a variety of strange objects in this region with amazing regularity. The danger of this type of behavior surely need not be stressed here.

Foreign Bodies Treatment

The stools of the child should be examined each day until the object is recovered. If this does not occur, then X-rays are sometimes taken to ascertain the presence and progress of the offending item. Sometimes surgical intervention may be suggested if the object is a potentially dangerous one such as a sharp needle that fails to move on or is obviously caught. Some objects reach the anal opening and become lodged there.

Items lodged in the rectum are usually much larger and may present a problem in removal. Some have been delivered by the doctor with obstetric forceps, the patient being under a general anesthetic. Adults are asking for trouble experimenting with things in this manner.

Children should be educated not to place any foreign object in any aperture. This includes not only the mouth and anus, but the nostrils, ear openings and eyes and vagina in females. Many problems could thus be avoided, as well as much patient discomfort. The use of the endoscope and colonoscope has made diagnosis and treatment much simpler.