SARS-CoV-2 Nasopharyngeal Swab as a Foreign Body: A Case Report

Madelyn N. Stevens, George T. Lin, Sarah M. Tittman, Kevin M. Motz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The SARS-CoV-2 pandemic response utilizes nasopharyngeal swabbing as a prolific testing method for presence of viral RNA. The depth of the swab to the nasopharynx coupled with breakpoints along the shaft leads to a risk for foreign body retention. Here, we present a case of a nasopharyngeal swab that became a retained foreign body during routine swabbing to test for the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Bedside flexible fiberoptic endoscopy was performed and did not reveal a foreign body in the nasopharynx or larynx. Subsequent computed tomography (CT) scan demonstrated the radiopaque retained foreign body at the distal gastroesophageal junction. The patient remained asymptomatic and did not have any upper airway or gastrointestinal symptoms. This unique case demonstrates a potential risk associated with SARS-CoV-2 nasopharyngeal swab testing and highlights management strategies that serve the patient while adequately protecting health care providers. A standardized approach to evaluation optimally includes bedside flexible endoscopy with appropriate personal protective equipment, prompt airway evaluation if aspiration is suspected, and noncontrasted CT imaging if the known foreign body is not identified via other modalities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)NP133-NP135
JournalEar, Nose and Throat Journal
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • COVID-19
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • foreign body

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Otorhinolaryngology


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