Removal of Foreign Body in the GI Tract

The gastrointestinal (GI) tract is the path food takes from the mouth, through the gullet, stomach, small and large bowel. Nutrients are absorbed in the GI tract and residue is expelled as waste material, in the form of faeces and urine.

Sometimes foreign material gets stuck in the GI track, both deliberately or by accident. Foreign material could include coins, small toys, small jewellery, buttons, or anything that adults or children may put in their mouths, though it is more common in children, adults with mental disabilities, or adults under intoxication.

The objects may get expelled naturally along the GI tract, but they may sometimes get stuck and need medical help in removing them. Such objects can be pulled free endoscopically or can be cut into small expellable pieces using endoscopic scissors, or they can be removed surgically.

Treatment of Foreign Bodies in the GI tract

Once your doctor realises you have swallowed a foreign object, they must decide whether it’s necessary to assist in removing the object or it can be left to be expelled naturally. The decision will be influenced by the possible risks. Patients with sharp objects and batteries lodged in the throat require urgent endoscopic intervention. Urgent intervention is likewise needed for foreign bodies that are impacted, causing obstruction and the inability of any organs to perform normal functions. Gastroenterology Doctors will usually give 24-48hrs for non-critical objects to be naturally expelled before they need to intervene.

When the doctor decided assistance is needed in removing the foreign object stuck in the GI tract, they may first give a sedative for relaxation, and spray some anaesthesia on the throat to numb it and prevent gagging during retrieval. Usually endoscopic tools are used to look into the GI tract and retrieve the foreign object,. Various retrieval devices have been used, including rat-tooth and alligator forceps, polypectomy snares, and many more.

After the extraction, you might be given something to sooth the throat, and in cases of potentially poisonous material you may need further treatment to neutralise toxins.