Swallowed Foreign Body (Adult)

Indigestible objects (foreign bodies) are sometimes swallowed by adults. Whether or not the object moves all the way through the digestive tract depends on many factors. This includes the size and shape of the object, whether the object is sharp and pointy, and what the object is made of.

Based on your evaluation, no treatment is needed at this time. The swallowed object is expected to move through your digestive tract and pass out of the body in the stool with no problems. This may take about 24 to 48 hours, but could take longer depending on your bowel habits. If imaging tests were done, you will be told when the results are ready and if they affect your treatment.

Home care

  • Follow any instructions from your provider about eating and drinking. In some cases, you may be told to only eat soft foods and drink liquids for the first 24 to 48 hours.

  • You will need to check your stool each time you have a bowel movement. This is so you can confirm that the object has passed, and look for signs of bleeding. If the object does not pass, it may mean that the object is stuck somewhere along the digestive tract. In such cases, the object may need to be removed with a procedure.

Follow-up care

Follow up with your healthcare provider as advised. You will be told if further treatment is needed. In certain cases, you may need to return to have imaging tests done. This especially true if the object you swallowed is visible on X-ray and doesn't seem to be passing. Call your healthcare provider if you have any questions or concerns.

When to seek medical advice

Call your healthcare provider right away if any of these occur:

  • Belly pain, cramps, or swelling

  • Shortness of breath or coughing that won’t stop

  • Trouble swallowing or pain with swallowing

  • Vomiting that won’t stop

  • Blood in the stool (black color, like tar)

  • Fever of 100.4ºF (38ºC) or higher, or as directed by your provider

  • Inability to pass stool

Call 911

Call 911 if any of these occur:

  • Trouble breathing, wheezing

  • Trouble speaking

  • Unusually fast heart rate

  • New or worsening chest pain

  • Vomiting blood (red or black) or bleeding from your rectum (red)

  • Swelling of the neck

  • Weakness, dizziness, or faintness

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