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Foreign Body Removal

Reviewed on 10/26/2020

A foreign body may be removed through medical imaging methods, especially X-ray or ultrasound.
A foreign body may be removed through medical imaging methods, especially X-ray or ultrasound.

Removing objects that are stuck in any part of the body is called foreign body removal or retrieval. Individuals may inhale or swallow a foreign body or may get one from an injury to almost any part of your body. Foreign body problems are usually seen in children when coins, toys, and other objects are accidentally swallowed. Adults and teenagers may also complain of a foreign body such as a fishbone or chicken bone. Most foreign bodies pass through the intestines without complication, and in rare cases, endoscopic or surgical intervention may be required. A foreign body may be removed through medical imaging methods, especially X-rays or ultrasound. They can often make the process of finding a foreign object and identifying a safe extraction path much easier, enabling a doctor to remove an object. Symptoms of foreign body ingestion include:

  • There is pain, swelling, and discomfort at the site.
  • Foreign bodies in the nose may cause bleeding and nasal drainage.
  • Foreign bodies in the ear can cause a feeling of fullness, pain, redness, and drainage.
  • A foreign body that has been ingested into the airway might result in choking and can be fatal.

How are foreign bodies removed?

Most foreign bodies are usually removed at home; however, in certain situations, medical intervention becomes necessary.

  • Removing foreign bodies from the skin: They are usually removed through a pair of tweezers, but care should be taken to sterilize it with alcohol and the wound may also be cleaned to avoid any chances of infection. If the wound is dirty or large due to the presence of a foreign body, immediate medical attention may be required. 
  • Removing foreign bodies from the eyes: They are usually removed through flushing saline solution by blinking. If the object has sharp edges or if chemicals are involved, immediate medical attention may be required.
  • Removing foreign bodies from the ears: They are usually removed by positioning the head toward gravity. Patients may also be able to remove an object using tweezers; however, one should never probe the ear because this can damage the eardrum. If patients have pain or hearing problems, immediate medical assistance may be required.
  • Removing foreign bodies from the throat, airways, and stomach: Once the object is visualized using imaging techniques, doctors may use endoscopy to remove the object. The tube may usually have a camera, and doctors may send operating tools through the tube to remove the lodged foreign body. This is usually done under local or general anesthesia.
  • Surgery: In rare cases, open surgery may be required where it is hard to remove foreign objects from difficult places.

When should I seek medical attention?

It is important not to cause yourself further damage while attempting to remove any foreign bodies yourself. If you cannot cleanly remove the object with your hands or tweezers, it is important to seek medical help. Avoiding further damage will be vital in the proper healing of the areas affected by a foreign body.

Some examples include:

  • A nail or sharp object in the foot
  • Swallowed magnets or batteries
  • A small object in the nose (more commonly found in children)
  • The discomfort of the eye
  • The feeling of a clogged ear
  • Severe pain or bleeding
  • Infection

If you are experiencing discomfort due to a foreign object or are unsure of the cause, it is important to seek medical attention to avoid further damage. If the object causes breathing difficulties, the individual should be immediately sent to a hospital.

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References
Foreign Body Retrieval: https://www.radiologyinfo.org/en/info.cfm?pg=foreignbodretrieval

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