Preventing Battery Ingestions: An Analysis of 8648 Cases

  • Litovitz T
  • Whitaker N
  • Clark L
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OBJECTIVES: Outcomes of pediatric button battery ingestions have worsened substantially, predominantly related to the emergence of the 20-mm-diameter lithium cell as a common power source for household products. Button batteries lodged in the esophagus can cause severe tissue damage in just 2 hours, with delayed complications such as esophageal perforation, tracheoesophageal fistulas, exsanguination after fistulization into a major blood vessel, esophageal strictures, and vocal cord paralysis. Thirteen deaths have been reported. The objective of this study was to explore button battery ingestion scenarios to formulate prevention strategies. METHODS: A total of 8648 battery ingestions that were reported to the National Battery Ingestion Hotline were analyzed. RESULTS: Batteries that were ingested by children who were younger than 6 years were most often obtained directly from a product (61.8%), were loose (29.8%), or were obtained from battery packaging (8.2%). Of young children who ingested the most hazardous battery, the 20-mm lithium cell, 37.3% were intended for remote controls. Adults most often ingested batteries that were sitting out, loose, or discarded (80.8%); obtained directly from a product (4.2%); obtained from battery packaging (3.0%); or swallowed within a hearing aid (12.1%). Batteries that were intended for hearing aids were implicated in 36.3% of ingestions. Batteries were mistaken for pills in 15.5% of ingestions, mostly by older adults. CONCLUSIONS: Parents and child care providers should be taught to prevent battery ingestions. Because 61.8% of batteries that were ingested by children were obtained from products, manufacturers should redesign household products to secure the battery compartment, possibly requiring a tool to open it.

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  • T. Litovitz

  • N. Whitaker

  • L. Clark

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