The aim was to investigate the role of physical and radiological findings before bronchoscopy in the diagnosis of foreign body aspiration (FBA).We retrospectively reviewed the clinical records for 82 patients (mean age 26.4 +/- 21.4 months, range 9 months to 13.5 years; 49 males) with a history suggestive of foreign body aspiration.The presence of a foreign body in the airways was confirmed in 70 children (85.4\%) (mean age 25 +/- 14.1 months, 45 boys). Of the 70 children, 63 patients (90\%) were under 3 years of age, with a peak incidence during the second year. Of the 70 foreign bodies retrieved, 46 (60\%) were vegetable and 35 (76\%) of these were nuts. In 42\% of the patients the foreign body was located in the right bronchial tree. The most frequent physical findings observed in our patients were persistent cough (75\%), localized decreased breath sound (62.8\%) and localized wheezing (30\%). The clinical triad (concomitant cough, localized wheezing and decreased breath sound) was present in 11 patients (15.7\%). All clinical findings had a high positive predictive value with poor sensitivity. In 11 patients (20\%) chest X-rays were normal. Five foreign bodies (9.1\%) were radiopaque. The most frequent radiological findings observed were localized air trapping (43.6\%), followed by atelectasis (40\%). The diagnostic sensitivity was 80\% and the specificity 33\% for the presence of a single positive radiological finding.Our study confirmed that clinical symptoms and radiological findings before bronchoscopy have a low diagnostic value in children with a history of FBA.
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