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3.13 Foreign Body in Throat


The patient thinks he recently swallowed a fish or a chicken bone, pop top from an old-style can, or something of the sort, and still can feel a foreign body sensation in his throat, especially (perhaps painfully) when swallowing. He may be convinced that there is a bone or other object stuck in the throat. He may be able to localize the foreign body sensation precisely above the thyroid cartilage (implying a foreign body in the hypopharynx you may be able to see), or he may only vaguely localize the foreign body sensation to the suprasternal notch (which could imply an foreign body anywhere in the esophagus). A foreign body in the tracheobronchial tree usually stimulates coughing and wheezing. Obstruction of the esophagus produces drooling and spitting up of whatever fluid is swallowed.

What to do:

What not to do:


During swallowing, as the base of the tongue pushes a bolus of food posteriorly, any sharp object hidden in that bolus may become embedded in the tonsil, the tonsillar pillar, the pharyngeal wall, or the tongue base itself. In one study, the majority of patients presenting with symptoms of an impacted fish bone had no demonstrated pathology, and their symptoms resolved in 48 hours. Twenty per cent did have an impacted fish bone, and the majority of these were easily identified and removed on initial visit.

All patients who complain of a foreign body of the throat should be taken seriously. Even relatively smooth or rounded objects that remain impacted in the esophagus have the potential for serious problems, and a fish bone can perforate the esophagus in only a few days. Impacted button batteries represent a true emergency and require rapid intervention and removal because leaking alkali produces liquefactive necrosis. A pill, composed of irritating medicine (e.g., tetracycline) swallowed without adequate liquid, may stick to the mucosa of the pharynx or esophagus and cause an irritating ulcer. Bay leaves, invisible on x rays and laryngoscopy, have lodged in the esophagus at the cricopharyngeus and produced severe symptoms until removed via rigid endoscope.

The sensation of a lump in the throat, unrelated to swallowing food or drink, may be globus hystericus, which is related to crico- pharyngeal spasm and anxiety. The initial workup is the same as with any foreign body sensation in the throat.

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from Buttaravoli & Stair: COMMON SIMPLE EMERGENCIES
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Craig Feied, MD
Mark Smith, MD
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