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EVALUATION AND MANAGEMENT OF AIRWAY FOREIGN BODIES IN THE EMERGENCY DEPARTMENT SETTING

Published:December 17, 2022DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jemermed.2022.12.008

      Abstract

      Background

      Airway foreign body can be a life-threatening issue in pediatric and adult patients, and the majority of these patients will first present to the emergency department.

      Objective

      This article provides a narrative review of the diagnosis and management of airway foreign bodies for the emergency clinician.

      Discussion

      Foreign bodies in the upper and lower airways are potentially life threatening. This affects all age groups but is more common in pediatric patients. A history of a witnessed ingestion or aspiration event should raise the clinical suspicion for an aspirated foreign body. Patients with upper-airway foreign bodies are more likely to present in respiratory distress when compared with lower-airway foreign bodies, which often present with more subtle signs. Stridor, drooling, and wheezing suggest respiratory distress, but the presenting clinical picture is often unclear and may only include a cough. Immediate intervention is required in the patient with hemodynamic instability or respiratory distress. Airway management including laryngoscopy, fiberoptic bronchoscopy, and cricothyrotomy may be needed in these patients, with the emphasis on removing the obstructing foreign body and securing the airway. Specialist consultation can assist in retrieving the foreign body and managing the airway. If the patient is stable, imaging and specialist consultation for potential operating room intervention should be considered.

      Conclusions

      An understanding of the presentation, evaluation, and management of the patient with an airway foreign body is essential for emergency clinicians.

      Keywords

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