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Things that go beep: experience with an ED guideline for use of a handheld metal detector in the management of ingested non-hazardous metallic foreign bodies


Objectives: To review compliance with our emergency department (ED) guideline on the imaging of ingested non-hazardous metallic foreign bodies in children, investigate adverse outcomes, and make suggestions for improving the guideline.

Methods: Retrospective analysis of patients presenting in a 3 year period to a paediatric ED with a history of possible metallic foreign body (MFB) ingestion, who were managed according to an ED guideline.

Results: We identified 430 episodes of possible MFB ingestion, of which 422 were eligible for inclusion in the study. Compliance with the guideline was 77.8% with no significant adverse events. The exclusion of symptoms as a criterion for x ray results in a reduction in the x ray rate of 56% in the symptomatic group with no increase in adverse events.

Conclusion: A handheld metal detector (HMD) can be safely and reliably used in lieu of plain radiography to investigate children with a history of MFB ingestion, irrespective of symptoms and without incurring any significant adverse events.

  • ED, emergency department
  • HMD, handheld metal detector
  • MFB, metallic foreign body
  • children
  • foreign body
  • metal detector
  • radiography

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