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Extraction of a Rubber Bullet From a Bronchus After 1 Year*: Complete Resolution of Chronic Pulmonary Damage

M. Francesca Bertolani, MD; Francesca Marotti, MD; Barbara M. Bergamini, MD; Marco Pellegrino, MD; Ruggero Balli, MD; PierLuigi Calandra Buonaura, MD
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*From the Pediatric Section (Drs. Bertolani, Marotti, and Bergamini), Respiratory Diseases and Physiopathology Section (Dr. Pellegrino), and Otorhinolaryngology Section (Dr. Balli), University of Modena and Reggio Emilia; and Radiology Service (Dr. Calandra Buonaura), Hospital Castelfranco E, Modena, Italy.

Correspondence to: M. Francesca Bertolani, MD, Dipartimento di Scienze Ostetriche-Ginecologiche e Pediatriche, Sezione di Pediatria, Policlinico Via del Pozzo, 71, 41100 Modena, Italy; e-mail mfbertol@unimo.it



Chest. 1999;115(4):1210-1213. doi:10.1378/chest.115.4.1210
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Inhalation of a foreign body (FB) into the bronchial tree rarely occurs asymptomatically and, if leading to recurrent pneumonia, can be very difficult to diagnose. The present report deals with the case of a 10-year-old boy who had three episodes of pneumonia in the left lower lobe caused by the asymptomatic inhalation of a FB 12 months before. Standard thoracic CT, done during the third episode, revealed a slight reduction in the volume of the left lung with air bronchograms, multiple areas of bronchiectasis, and parenchymal consolidation of a segment of the lower lobe. Flexible fiberoptic bronchoscopy revealed a FB at the distal end of the left lower lobar bronchus, surrounded by granulation tissue and fully obstructing the anterior basal segmental bronchus. High-resolution CT (HRCT) images showed an inverted C-shaped image obstructing a bronchus. Removal of the FB was successful only with rigid bronchoscopy under total anesthesia. The FB was an air-pistol rubber bullet that the boy remembered playing with 12 months before. Two months after removal of the FB (ie, 14 months from its asymptomatic inhalation) and treatment with oral steroids, antibiotics, and respiratory physiotherapy, the patient recovered completely, and HRCT showed complete normalization of the lung. We conclude that, when the radiographic density of the FB is greater than the surrounding pulmonary parenchyma, HRCT can reveal the FB, and diagnostic flexible fiberoptic bronchoscopy can be avoided.

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