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.
A total of 8648 battery ingestions that were reported to the National Battery Ingestion Hotline were analyzed.
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.
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.