Foreign Body

A foreign body describes an object which becomes stuck in the throat, causing problems with swallowing, breathing, or both. A foreign body may lodge in the area behind the tongue, in the vallecula, in the esophagus, or even within the windpipe or trachea. Objects that commonly lodge are fish bones, coins, meat such as steak, amongst many others.

Fishbone lodged in the base of tongue. This patient presented with a  foreign body sensation eating fish.

Diagnosis of a foreign body focuses on a full head and neck examination. A flexible laryngoscopy or esophagoscopy may be performed to identify the location of the foreign body. Imaging, such as an X-ray or CT scan may be performed, but often times is only helpful if the object can be seen using these technologies. For example, a chicken bone is often seen on x-ray – however, sometimes fish bones, or even pieces of plastic are not visible.

Fishbone removed from an individual's esophagus.

Removal of a foreign body may require a direct laryngoscopy, esophagoscopy and removal of the object. This procedure is commonly performed in the operating room with the patient asleep. A laryngoscope is inserted through a patient’s mouth to identify the foreign body. Specialized instruments are used to grasp and then remove the foreign body.