Foreign Bodies in a Pediatric Emergency Department in South Africa

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Foreign body–related pediatric trauma has a high incidence, but studies with large data sets are rare and typically stem from Western settings. The aim of this study was to identify characteristics of foreign body–related trauma in children treated at our trauma unit in South Africa.


In this retrospective study, we analyzed all foreign body–related trauma admissions from 1991 to 2009. We collected detailed data including age, sex, type of foreign body, injury severity, and anatomical location of the foreign body.


We analysed 8149 cases. Marginally more boys (54.9%) than girls were involved. The overall median age was 3 years (interquartile range, 2-6 years); 78.8% were younger than 7 years. The predominant anatomical sites were the respiratory tract and the gastrointestinal tract (39.1%); ears (23.9%); nose (19.4%); and extremities (8.8%). The commonest objects were coins (20.8 %), (parts of) jewelry (9.5%), and food (8.7%). Three quarters (74.5%) of patients presented between 1 and 2 hours after the injury (median, 1 hour). A total of 164 cases (2.0%) were marked as possible child abuse; 17 cases were filed as confirmed child abuse.


Preventive parent education programs targeting foreign body–related injury should mainly focus on both sexes younger than 7 years. Parents should be taught to keep small objects out of reach of young children, especially coins, because these most often result in a trauma unit visit.

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