What Is It?
Young children and, sometimes, older children and adults may swallow toys, coins, safety pins, buttons, bones, wood, glass, magnets, batteries or other foreign objects. These objects often pass all the way through the digestive tract in 24 to 48 hours and cause no harm.
But problems may arise when objects are stuck for a long time, are sharp, or contain corrosive materials. Complications can include tears in the esophagus (the tube that connects the mouth and stomach), movement of the object into the tissue of the esophagus, and infection. Small magnets can pose a special problem. If more than one is swallowed, they can stick together and erode through tissue.
Three areas of the esophagus are the most likely places for objects to lodge:
At the level of the collarbones (clavicles) — the most common place
At the center of the chest
Just before the esophagus meets the stomach, near the bottom of the rib cage
Objects also may get stuck in any part of the esophagus that has been injured previously.
To continue reading this article, you must login
Subscribe to Harvard Health Online for immediate access to health news and information from Harvard Medical School.