Foreign Bodies (FB)

What is Foreign Bodies?

Foreign bodies (FB) refer to objects that do not belong in certain parts of the human body and are getting lodged in there. In the context of the gut, this can be anything ranging from chunks of food to coins. Sometimes they are inadvertently swallowed, but they can also be deliberately inserted.

SYMPTOMS

Symptoms experienced would depend on the site where the foreign body is lodged, the nature of the FB and the way how it entered. It can vary from an incidental discovery with no symptoms to severe abdominal pain resulting from a ruptured intestine.  

WHEN to See a Doctor

Seek medical attention immediately, if you suspect a FB is lodged in your gut, especially if you are having symptoms.

Even if you feel well, see a doctor immediately if it is one of the following objects:

  1. Button batteries (as these can degenerate and leak caustic chemicals)
  2. Denture plates
  3. Sharp fish and animal bones
  4. Coins

The list above is not exhaustive, and a general rule of thumb is to seek medical attention if a FB has been ingested. 

CAUSES

Foreign bodies can be inadvertently swallowed, the commonest example is choking on a fishbone whilst eating inattentively. They can be caused by surreptitious ingestion of objects like hair or coins in individuals with mental health issues, or sometimes deliberate insertion of remove the extra space items into the rectum.

RISK FACTORS

Any foreign body has the potential to cause symptoms and harm,the patient must be assessed by a doctor. Most would pass out through the gut spontaneously, but if the patient has previous gut surgery or narrowing of the oesophagus or intestines then the risk of obstruction is higher.

As mentioned previously, certain objects are more likely to cause harm. 

DIAGNOSIS

Diagnosis is made by taking a good history and doing a thorough physical examination. Often, an X-ray or CT scan would be needed to confirm the foreign body and the exact location.

TREATMENT

Treatment depends on the nature of the foreign body and the location. Most of the time the FB can be passed out spontaneously without the need for intervention. Sometimes endoscopy is needed to find, identify and retrieve the FB before it causes any harm to the gut – removal can be done using special forceps or a net through the endoscope. In rare instances, surgery may be necessary.