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Airway blockages caused by foreign bodies linked to high mortality rate

Airway blockages are associated with high mortality rates, a new study shows.

Although airway and esophageal foreign bodies that block the airway occur relatively infrequently in children, these cases have a surprisingly high mortality rate, according to a study published in the April issue of Archives of Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery.

The study authors assessed data from The Kids' Inpatient Database (KID) 2003, which is part of the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project. A total of 2,771 children (0.06% of total KID 2003 admissions) were admitted for an airway or esophageal foreign body that was blocking the airway; 71% of these children were admitted to teaching hospitals. Among admitted patients, 2,502 otolaryngology procedures were performed, primarily bronchoscopy (52%) and esophagoscopy (28%). A total of 94 patients (3.4%) died during hospitalization.

The authors suggested that, with a decreasing incidence of airway and esophageal foreign body cases in children, training of residents and fellows through the active treatment of patients may be a challenge. They stated, "Alternative education measures should be considered to train physicians in the management of this infrequent, potentially lethal condition."