Foreign Content in the Throat


Closeup, magnified examination finds barbecue brush bristle base of tongue: Series of 4 photos

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Pain in throat

Pain in throat (1 of 4)

While eating barbecued steak, this person felt a sharp pain deep in her throat. At this visit the next day, she continued to feel a sharp sensation, especially when swallowing. Note the faint dark line at the arrow.
abnormality in the throat

Closer view (2 of 4)

From a slightly closer vantage, the abnormality is seen better.
bristle in the throat

Bristle identified (3 of 4)

At even closer range, the bristle is identified.
bristle stuck in the esophagus

Bristle to be removed (4 of 4)

At this final view, the metallic nature of the foreign body and stuck-on carbonaceous debris can be appreciated. This bristle was removed with cup forceps through a channel scope in an office setting.

Diet Modification for Dysphagia

Diet modification for dysphagia are suggested dietary changes, particularly regarding food consistencies, directed at improving a patient’s ability to swallow and at avoiding aspiration. For example, an individual who is struggling with aspiration might be advised to avoid thin liquids and use thicker or carbonated liquids instead. Or this individual might be advised to avoid composite foods, since his or her swallowing deficiency could make it harder to “stay organized” with several consistencies in the mouth at once.

Swallowing Therapy

Swallowing therapy is typically provided by a speech-language pathologist (and, more informally and adjunctively, by other healthcare professionals). General areas of teaching might include: choosing wisely which food types and consistencies to eat; swallowing maneuvers such as tucking the chin, double swallow, effortful swallow, head turning, and supraglottic swallow; and direct exercises for the tongue, pharynx, palate, and larynx.

Swallowing Trouble 101
This video gives an overview of how swallowing works, how it can sometimes go wrong (presbyphagia or cricopharyngeal dysfunction), and possible ways to treat those problems (swallowing therapy or cricopharyngeal myotomy).

Pharyngocutaneous fistula

The leaking of saliva outside of the pharynx (“throat” part of the swallowing passage) through a defect in the pharyngeal mucosa lining. This may occur transiently in up to 20% of persons who have undergone total laryngectomy, with the sixth postoperative day the peak time of incidence. Prior radiation therapy seems to increase the risk of fistulization.

Traditionally, the treatment was to make a midline incision directly, insert a penrose drain, and then use pressure dressings. Modern treatment uses suction drains to control salivary leakage and allow the rest of the skin flap to adhere to the neck1. Then, the drain is removed, shortened, and replaced a series of times to allow the tract to close from top to bottom.

  1. Bastian RW, Park AH. Suction drain management of salivary fistulas. Laryngoscope. 1995;105(12 Pt 1):1337-41. 

Post-swallow hypopharyngeal reflux

Refers to when, shortly after a person swallows, some swallowed material returns from below the esophageal entrance back up into the hypopharynx. This finding is an almost certain diagnostic indicator of cricopharyngeal dysfunction, usually with an associated Zenker’s diverticulum.

If this reflux occurs during a videoendoscopic swallowing study, the clinician will see that, though there may be little to no hypopharyngeal residue immediately after the swallow, a moment later some swallowed material (e.g., blue-stained applesauce or water) reappears and wells up in the post-arytenoid area and into the pyriform sinuses. If this reflux occurs during a videofluoroscopic swallowing study, the clinician will see barium remaining in the Zenker’s sac and, immediately after each swallow, moving back upward into the hypopharynx.


Inability to Initiate Swallow

When a person feels unable to initiate the swallow. Normally, after the oral preparatory phase of swallowing (chewing, mixing with saliva), a person can voluntarily initiate the swallow reflex by moving the liquid or chewed food back to the base of the tongue, triggering the reflex. Occasionally, however, a person with otherwise normal swallowing feels unable to start or commit to the swallow. They often say, “The food just stays in my mouth; I can’t seem to get myself to swallow.” This problem can be neurogenic, but can also reflect a kind of phobia or sense of vulnerability about swallowing.


Choking is a term that, as used popularly, can describe at least a few distinct scenarios or disorders:

  1. Minor aspiration. A person swallows and food or liquid “goes down the wrong tube” (down the airway), which provokes aggressive coughing.
  2. Life-threatening aspiration. A person swallows food (a piece of meat, for instance) that enters the airway and plugs it, requiring a Heimlich maneuver.
  3. Sensory neuropathic cough. A person uses the term “choking” to describe a severe episode of coughing, but without any aspiration of liquid or food.
  4. Laryngospasm. A person uses the term “choking” to describe the sudden inability to breathe and the noisy inspiration of a laryngospasm attack.

When a patient uses the term “choke,” the clinician must ask a series of questions to verify whether the fundamental issue is dysphagia with aspiration, coughing unrelated to dysphagia or aspiration, or laryngospasm. View this article for more information.

Food lodgment

Refers to when food gets stuck somewhere along its path from lips to stomach. Lodgment is more of a “full stop” of the food’s digestive journey, as compared with pooling. Lodgment usually occurs at one of these points: in the vallecula (usually in cases of presbyphagia); at the level of the cricopharyngeus muscle (in cases of cricopharyngeal dysfunction, which is one kind of achalasia); somewhere in the esophagus (in cases of esophageal stenosis); or at the lower esophageal sphincter (in cases of lower esophageal sphincter achalasia).