question and answer
Foreign body
June 2012
Occasionally I get patients in my office who have a foreign body embedded in their hand or foot. Just this past winter holiday break, two patients presented with suspected pieces of coral in the soles of their feet. If there's no obvious sign of infection, should I freeze the area and try to get it out, or can I just leave it to “work itself out on its own”?
Dan Ezekiel, MD, Vancouver, BC

Vacationing in southern climates and coastal locations is becoming increasingly popular for Canadians. Water sports are very popular in these destinations, and not infrequently Man rubs up against Nature in painful ways. Abrasions and puncture wounds are very common.

Unlike venom stings, coral and sea urchin spines are inanimate objects. The most common reaction is a foreign body granuloma. Infections are usually secondary to the skin break. If the material is very superficially implanted, the body will usually push it out through the skin eventually. But if it’s deeper, surgical removal is best.

It can be difficult at times to determine where the fragment is located. Since these products are calcified, they may be visible to x-ray. An alternative imaging method would be ultrasound. Your friendly radiologist may be able to place a guide wire in the area to allow you to identify the location of the foreign body.

Prevention is still the best defence. Vacationers should be advised to wear proper footwear whenever they are out in the ocean.

practice guidelines & special reports
subscription   |   advertising information   |   about us   |   contact us   |   privacy statement   |   legal terms of use   |   Doctors review
Oncology Exchange   |   Relay   |   Health Essentials   |   Our Voice   |   login