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Delayed presentation following accidental inhalation of a pushpin


A previously fit and well 18-year-old woman presented to the accident and emergency department following referral by her general practitioner with a provisional diagnosis of appendicitis. The history obtained from the patient revealed the presence of a bitemporal headache with associated neck stiffness, photophobia and vomiting for approximately 1.5 weeks. The patient complained of abdominal pain localised to her right iliac fossa and anorexia for approximately 1 week. She also noted the presence of a cough productive of green sputum for 3 weeks. A chest radiograph was obtained which showed a large area of consolidation in the right lower lobe consistent with infection and a linear density in keeping with a metallic foreign body. Following review of the chest radiograph, the patient was interviewed further and recalled having inhaled a pushpin approximately 1 year before her presentation. Aspiration of foreign bodies is relatively common in children and is often associated with delayed diagnosis and high morbidity. To prevent delayed diagnosis, characteristic symptoms and clinical and radiological signs of foreign body aspiration should be checked in all suspected cases and a low index of suspicion for ordering additional imaging or using bronchoscopy for diagnostic purposes should be employed.

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