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Swallowed Object (cont.)

When to Seek Medical Care

When any nonfood item is swallowed, call a doctor. A description of the item should be given.

  • If no symptoms are present and the doctor is comfortable with the situation of the patient, a routine visit to the office may suffice.
  • If the person has any symptoms, or the object swallowed is concerning to the physician, the doctor will probably refer the patient to the emergency department.

If any symptoms continue and won't go away after swallowing an object or large piece of food, go to the local emergency department. If the patient has a similar object to the one swallowed, bring it along to help the doctor determine what type of object may be causing the blockage.

Swallowed Object Diagnosis

The doctor will take a complete history and will specifically want to know what was swallowed, when it was swallowed, and any symptoms the patient has. A physical examination will focus on the mouth, throat, and lungs. The doctor may perform one or more of the following tests:

  • X-rays of the neck, chest, and abdomen may be performed to help locate any objects that will show up in this format, such as coins, batteries, metal toys, and bones.
  • Enhanced X-rays with barium may be used to help locate stuck objects not seen on regular X-rays.
  • The doctor may make a direct inspection of the area above the voice box with a special fiber optic light or indirect inspection with a dental mirror. These procedures require a cooperative patient.
  • Direct visualization with a fiber optic scope (endoscopy) may be needed to see objects in the esophagus. This is procedure is usually performed in a short procedure unit or in the operating room.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/12/2016
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