A Five-Year Analysis of Airway Foreign Body Management: Toward a Better Understanding of Negative Bronchoscopies

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To identify characteristics in patients who undergo positive and negative bronchoscopy for a suspected airway foreign body (AFB).


Review medical records between 2008 and 2012.


There were 145 patients who went to the operating room with the pre-bronchoscopy diagnosis of suspected AFB during the study period. There was an overall negative bronchoscopy rate of an average of 37%, with an annual range between 21% and 50%. The findings of history or suspicion of choking, asymmetric breath sounds, and wheezing were statistically more common in patients with an AFB. Chest roentograms (CXR) had a sensitivity and specificity of 62% and 57%. Twenty patients had a chest computed tomography (CT) scan, and 100% were clinically significant. Four CT scans were diagnostic of an AFB, and 16 patients avoided bronchoscopy after negative CT.


In current clinical practice, it is difficult to identify patients with an AFB without performing bronchoscopy. This results in a significant number of negative bronchoscopes. Certain elements in the history and physical exam were more common in patients who were found to have an AFB. Our preliminary data suggest that chest CT scans may be useful to decrease the number of negative bronchoscopies.

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