Tracheobronchial foreign bodies

K. L. Swanson, E. S. Edell

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations


Aspiration of tracheobronchial foreign bodies occurs more commonly in children, but under certain circumstances, it also can occur in adults. The most common symptoms are choking followed by a protracted cough. Physical examination findings include fever, stridor, retractions, and decreased breath sounds. Radiographic imaging can be helpful if the object aspirated is radiopaque or if there are signs of hyperexpansion on expiration. Negative-imaging studies, however, do not exclude the presence of a foreign body in the airway. The longer a foreign body resides in the airway, the more likely it is to migrate distally. When this occurs, symptoms of chronic cough and wheezing may mimic an asthmalike condition. Bronchoscopy is indicated in this situation to evaluate the airway thoroughly. If a foreign body is present, extraction can be performed with flexible or rigid bronchoscopy. If flexible bronchoscopy is attempted, it is imperative that the bronchoscopist is familiar with rigid bronchoscopy and has the equipment immediately available should danger to the airway occur. The procedure is generally safe and well tolerated. Many patients are managed under general anesthesia, but foreign bodies often can be removed with a flexible bronchoscope with the patient under local anesthesia. Surgery should be performed only as a last resort and rarely is necessary.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)861-872
Number of pages12
JournalChest Surgery Clinics of North America
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2001

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine


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