To determine the likelihood of spontaneous passage of esophageal coins to the stomach in children and to determine the effect of initial coin location on spontaneous passage.
Retrospective review of medical records and radiographs.
Consecutive patients 18 years or younger presenting during a 24-month period (October 1995 to September 1997) whose evaluation revealed an esophageal coin.
The emergency department of a large, urban academic children's hospital.
Main Outcome Measures
Independent measures were time between ingestion and radiographs, initial location of the coin, and categorization of case as "simple" (patients without a history of esophageal disease or surgery, with a single esophageal coin lodged less than 24 hours, and with no respiratory compromise on presentation) or "complex." Dependent measures were spontaneous passage of the coin to the stomach and the time to passage.
A total of 116 cases were included in the analysis, of which 84 were simple and 32 complex. Among the 84 simple cases, the coin was initially located in the proximal third of the esophagus in 54 (64%), the middle third in 7 (8%), and the distal third in 22 (26%). For the 32 complex cases, the initial location of the coin was the proximal third of the esophagus in 27 (84%) and the middle third in 5 (16%). Subsequent radiographs were obtained in the emergency department in 58 (69%) of the simple cases. Among these cases, spontaneous passage of the coin to the stomach occurred in 16 (28% [95% confidence interval, 21%-41%]). By initial coin location, spontaneous passage in this group occurred in 22% (7/32) of proximal, 33% (2/6) of middle, and 37% (7/19) of distal esophageal coins (P>.05). Subsequent radiographs were obtained in 14 (44%) of the complex cases; no coin had passed spontaneously to the stomach in these patients (0% [95% confidence interval, 0%-20%]).
Children with a single esophageal coin seen within 24 hours of ingestion, who have no history of esophageal disease and no respiratory compromise on presentation, have a 28% chance of spontaneous passage of the coin to the stomach. Coins in the upper as well as the lower esophagus pass spontaneously. Observing these children for 12 to 24 hours prior to invasive procedures will reduce complications and costs.