If you or someone you know has swallowed a foreign object, the first step is to seek medical care by calling your doctor or visiting the emergency room. Emergency treatment may be needed, particularly if a sharp object, magnet, or battery has been ingested.
Your doctor will perform a medical evaluation that includes a physical exam as well as imaging tests like X-rays or CT scans. This will help them confirm that an object has been swallowed, determine how far the object has traveled in the GI tract, and whether it is causing a blockage. These tests can also help your doctor better understand the size and shape of the object, which helps them decide next steps.
Most of the time, adults can be observed to see if the foreign body will pass on its own (and in 80% to 90% of cases, it will). However, some cases will require medical intervention.
Your doctor might also perform a procedure called an esophagoscopy, where they use an endoscope to look for the object into the esophagus and stomach. Endoscopy allows them to see the object and remove it if necessary.
In less than 1% of cases, surgery may be needed to remove a foreign object from the GI tract.