What Do You Do If You Swallow a Piece of Metal?

Staying calm, contacting a doctor and avoiding the forceful removal of the object are immediate steps a person who has swallowed metal can take, according to Drugs.com. Surgery for foreign body ingestion is uncommon. The object can usually be removed mechanically or allowed to naturally pass through the digestive tract.

Symptoms of foreign body ingestion include discomfort in the neck or throat areas, difficulty swallowing, drooling, and difficulty breathing, explains Medscape. This is especially true if the object has become trapped in the esophagus. If the object has become trapped in the stomach or small intestine, patients may present with vomiting, abdominal pain and fever.

Plain X-rays, a barium swallow, ultrasound and CT scanning may be used to identify and locate the object, states Medscape. Of these options, CT scanning is the most useful radiological procedure, as it gives the precise location of the object and identifies objects that can’t be seen on standard X-rays.

The mechanical removal of the object by endoscopy, or through the use of a balloon catheter, is the primary treatment modality, according to Drugs.com. In less serious cases, watchful waiting for the object to pass through the digestive system is preferred, with follow-up scans for confirmation.