Battery-Related Incidents Doubled Since 1990
The amount of children seeking emergency treatment for battery-related incidents has nearly doubled since 1990, most likely due to the proliferation of “button batteries,” the small, round batteries found in household devices.
As batteries become smaller, the likelihood of ingestion in children 5 years and younger increases, with 19.1 children in that age group per 100,000 visiting the emergency department (ED) in 2009, compared with just 10 per 100,000 in 1990. These incidents can be serious—and even fatal—when batteries remain in the esophagus.
"When placed in a conductive medium, a button battery gives rise to an external current, causing electrolysis of tissue fluids and the generation of hydroxide at the battery's negative pole," researchers explained.
To fully understand this passively documented problem, researchers analyzed data from 65,788 battery-related visits to hospital EDs between 1990 and 2009.
Oral ingestion accounted for 76.6% of the cases, with nasal, oral, and aural insertion representing 10.2%, 7.5%, and 5.7%, respectively. Injuries involving traditional, cylindrical batteries were far less common, and these usually involved oral burns sustained from chewing on the device.
"Primary prevention of battery exposures is critical because of the limited effectiveness of medical interventions once tissue damage has occurred,” researchers concluded.