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Severe esophageal damage due to button battery ingestion: can it be prevented?


Batteries represent less than 2% of foreign bodies ingested by children, but in the last 2 decades, the frequency has continuously increased. Most ingestions have an uneventful course, but those that lodge in the esophagus can lead to serious complications and even death. Medline was used to search the English medical literature, combining “button battery” and “esophageal burn” as keywords. Cases were studied for type, size, and source of the batteries; duration and location of the battery impaction in the esophagus; symptoms; damage caused by the battery; and outcome. Nineteen cases of esophageal damage have been reported since 1979.Batteries less than 15 mm in diameter almost never lodged in the esophagus. Only 3% of button batteries were larger than 20 mm but were responsible for the severe esophageal injuries in this series. These data suggest that manufacturers should replace large batteries with smaller ones and thus eliminate most of the complications. When the battery remains in the esophagus, endoscopic examination and removal done urgently will allow assessment of the esophageal damage, and treatment can be tailored accordingly. There is a need for more public education about the dangers of battery ingestion; this information should be included as part of the routine guidelines for childproofing the home.

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Correspondence to D. Yardeni.

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Yardeni, D., Yardeni, H., Coran, A.G. et al. Severe esophageal damage due to button battery ingestion: can it be prevented?. Ped Surgery Int 20, 496–501 (2004).

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  • Button battery
  • Esophageal burn