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Button battery ingestion in children Advice for parents and carers

Patient information A-Z

What is a button battery?

A button battery is a battery in the shape of a button that is used in things including watches, toys, games, flashing jewellery and hearing aids.

Who needs treatment?

All children who are suspected to have swallowed a button battery will be assessed in the children’s emergency department to decide whether they need admission and/or emergency surgery.

Why is it important?

If a button battery is swallowed, it can cause damage to the wall of the bowel. Button batteries can get stuck within the food pipe (oesophagus) or the windpipe (trachea or bronchus) and have the potential to cause a hole through the wall of the food pipe or wind pipe, which is a serious complication. However, if the battery has passed into the stomach or beyond, we know that the child can be safely observed at home without the need for an immediate operation.

Therefore a doctor will assess your child for the presence and position of the battery to decide if it is in a position that requires emergency retrieval. The assessment will include some x-rays. If the battery needs to be removed, the child will be admitted to the hospital and will be taken to the operating theatre for the procedure. Under general anaesthetic a camera (called an endoscope) is passed and used to visualise and retrieve the battery. Following the procedure, your child is likely to need to stay in the hospital for observations. The duration of stay in the hospital will depend on what we find during the procedure. Accommodation for a parent/carer is provided on the ward.

Advice for parents of children sent home after assessment

If your child has been discharged home following assessment with a button battery in the stomach, you will be advised to do the following:

  • Observe the stools for passage of the battery in stools.
  • Bring your child to the emergency department in the hospital if he/she has any of the following symptoms: vomiting, abdominal pain, chest pain and/or blood in stools.
  • If no passage of battery has been noted, your child will need to go back to the hospital in four to six days (10 to 14 days for children over six years of age) for another x-ray of the abdomen to look for the presence and position of the battery. If the x-ray confirms that the battery remains in the stomach, your child is likely to need a procedure involving using a camera to look into the stomach to retrieve it.

For further information or questions please call:

Clinical nurse specialists: 01223 586973 (08:00 to 18:00 Monday to Friday)


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Contact us

Cambridge University Hospitals
NHS Foundation Trust
Hills Road, Cambridge

Telephone +44 (0)1223 245151