Did you know you can use a regular old metal detector to rule-in a metallic swallowed foreign body in children?

It’s true! Several studies have been published in The Journal of Accident and Emergency Medicine out of  The Royal Hospital for Children located in Glasgow, Scotland. In one large prospective study,  186 children presented to the ED with a definite history of ingesting a foreign body – of those, a standard metal detector successfully identified 183 swallowed metallic objects!

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So how can you perform this simple test in our ED?

Step 1: Call the security office (x46068) and ask them to come by the Peds ED with the metal detector.

Step 2: Have the child undress and put on a hospital gown to avoid detecting zippers and buttons.

Step 3: Wand the child with the metal detector leaving no more than 1/2 inch between the skin and the detector.

A consistent *beep* means you’ve struck gold! (…or something metallic)

If your consults are skeptical you can confirm your suspicion with a x-ray, and voila!

Special Thank to Dr. Ee Tay, who proved me and the other skeptics wrong with this trick! 

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Doraiswamy, N V, H Baig, and L Hallam. “Metal Detector and Swallowed Metal Foreign Bodies in Children.” Journal of Accident & Emergency Medicine 16.2 (1999): 123–125. Print.

Giddins, G E. “Foreign Body Detected by Patients Using Metal Detectors.”Journal of Accident & Emergency Medicine 12.2 (1995): 147–148.

Ros SP, Cetta F. Successful use of a metal detector in locating coins ingested by children. J Pediatr.1992 May;120(5):752–753.

Tidey B, Price GJ, Perez-Avilla CA, Kenney IJ. The use of a metal detector to locate ingested metallic foreign bodies in children. J Accid Emerg Med. 1996 Sep;13(5):341–342.

April 2024