December 01, 2007
ABSTRACT: Young children with suspected foreign-body aspirations are common in emergency departments and primary care offices. A "sentinel event" consisting of a sudden onset of choking, gasping, gagging, wheezing, stridor, difficulty in breathing, change in phonation, or difficulty in swallowing may indicate aspiration. In many cases, the diagnosis is missed because the child is asymptomatic on presentation. Normal physical findings can be misleading or the child may have nonspecific symptoms that are initially misdiagnosed as asthma, croup, bronchitis, or pneumonia. Except for endoscopy, most routine diagnostic studies can be falsely reassuring when results are normal. The literature is reviewed here and recommendations are made about how to evaluate and safely manage children with suspected foreign-body aspiration.