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Aspiration Of Foreign Body

In young children or in disabled older patients, aspiration of a foreign body can be a problem, as they cannot communicate well.

In toddlers it may be that they have played with a peanut and part of it suddenly got “breathed in” with the airflow (=aspirated). The peanut particle gets as far as it can, usually to the level of a bronchiole (that’s a side branch of a bronchial tube).

The air behind the aspiration of foreign body gets absorbed from the small air way duct, which is now termed “atelectasis” and there is lung collapse in that region. The foreign body (in this case a peanut particle) becomes the focus of where bacteria multiply and aspiration pneumonia starts at this location.

With swift action on behalf of the medical profession the patient is referred to a lung specialist (respirologist) who will do a bronchoscopy with a fiberoptic or rigid bronchoscope and remove the foreign body.

Chest physiotherapy is done following this to re-expand the lung, and the patient will be fine. Without swift action very difficult, often life threatening situations can occur and sometimes a chest surgeon has to cut out the diseased and scarred up portion of the lung to stop a vicious cycle of scarring and chronic infection (Ref. 2, p. 1766).



1. James Chin et al., Editors: Control of Communicable Diseases Manual, 17th edition, 2000, American Public Health Association.

2. Behrman: Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics, 16th ed., 2000, W. B. Saunders Company

4. Noble: Textbook of Primary Care Medicine, 3rd ed.,2001 Mosby, Inc.

5. Abeloff: Clinical Oncology, 2nd ed.,2000,Churchill Livingstone, Inc.

6. Ferri: Ferri’s Clinical Advisor: Instant Diagnosis and Treatment, 2004 ed., Copyright © 2004 Mosby, Inc.

7. Rakel: Conn’s Current Therapy 2004, 56th ed., Copyright © 2004 Elsevier

Last modified: October 24, 2014

This outline is only a teaching aid to patients and should stimulate you to ask the right questions when seeing your doctor. However, the responsibility of treatment stays in the hands of your doctor and you.