OBJECTIVE: To evaluate a metal detector to diagnose swallowed radio-opaque metal foreign bodies (MFBs) in children, and whether they can detect non-radio-opaque MFBs. METHODS: In a prospective study, 231 children, who presented to the accident and emergency department with a history of swallowing MFBs, were evaluated by the metal detector as well as radiography to confirm and locate the presence or absence of MFBs. RESULTS: A definite history of swallowing a MFB by the child was given by 186 (81%) parents. The metal detector located MFBs in 183 children and radiographs confirmed radio-opaque MFBs in 181. In the remaining 45 (19%), when swallowing was suspected and not definite, both metal detector and radiography confirmed the presence of a MFB in only four. CONCLUSION: A high detection rate of swallowed MFBs was observed in this study, using a metal detector. It is also of value to detect non-radio-opaque MFBs like aluminium. The detection of MFBs is high when the history of swallowing is definite.
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