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Flexible versus rigid endoscopy for treatment of foreign body impaction in the esophagus



The use of either flexible endoscopy (FE) or rigid endoscopy (RE) for removal of ingested foreign bodies (FBs) impacted in the esophagus is still discussed controversially.


We report a consecutive series of 139 patients with FB impaction in the esophagus. During a 6-year period, 69 men and 70 women (median age, 64 [0.7–97] years) requiring removal of an impacted FB underwent either RE (n = 63) in the Otolaryngology Department of our hospital or FE (n = 76) in the Surgical Endoscopy Unit.


Foreign body removal was equally effective with FE (success rate 93.4%) and RE (95.2%, p = n.s.). The cases in which foreign body removal failed (5 FE cases [6.6%] and 3 RE cases [4.8%]) were all subsequently successfully managed with “conversion” and use of the other technique. No severe complications occurred when FB removal was attempted with FE (0 of 76 cases; 0.0%), whereas RE was associated with esophageal rupture requiring immediate surgical intervention in 2 of 63 cases (3.2%; p < 0.002). Patient comfort differed significantly between the two procedures (p < 0.0001); RE was always performed under general anesthesia (100.0%), whereas only a minority of patients undergoing FE required general anesthesia (13.0%; p < 0.0001) or mild analgosedation (20.0%). The better patient comfort with FE was also reflected in a significantly lower rate of dysphagia (15%) compared to RE (48%; p < 0.0001). Rigid endoscopy was more frequently used in removal of FBs of the upper esophagus (p < 0.0001), whereas FE was the predominate approach to FBs in the lower esophagus (p < 0.0001).


A tailored approach to treatment of FB impaction is recommended. Because of the lower rate of severe complications, better patient comfort with a lower rate of dysphagia, and lack of requirement for general anesthesia, FE should be the “first line” approach to FBs, although RE has its place as the “second line” therapy.

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Correspondence to B. H. A. von Rahden.

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Gmeiner, D., von Rahden, B.H.A., Meco, C. et al. Flexible versus rigid endoscopy for treatment of foreign body impaction in the esophagus. Surg Endosc 21, 2026–2029 (2007). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00464-007-9252-6

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  • Flexible esophagoscopy
  • Rigid esophagoscopy
  • Foreign body ingestion
  • Therapeutic algorithm
  • Success rates Complications