An Unusual Retained Choanal Foreign Body: A Possible Complication of COVID-19 Testing With Nasopharyngeal Swab

Michele Gaffuri, Pasquale Capaccio, Sara Torretta, Marco Daga, Gian Vincenzo Zuccotti, Lorenzo Pignataro

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Testing for coronavirus disease 2019 is critical in controlling the pandemic all over the world. Diagnosis of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 infection is based on real-time polymerase chain reaction performed on nasopharyngeal swab. If not adequately performed, the viral specimen collection can be painful and lead to complications. We present a complication occurred during a nasopharyngeal swab collection performed in a noncooperative patient where the plastic shaft of the swab fractured during the procedure, resulting in swab tip retention deep into the nasal cavity. The foreign body was found endoscopically, stuck between the nasal septum and the superior turbinate tail at the upper level of the left choana and removed under general anesthesia in a negative pressure operating room with the health care personnel wearing personal protective equipment. Unpleasant complications like the one described can happen when the swab is collected without the necessary knowledge of nasal anatomy or conducted inappropriately, especially in noncooperative patients. Moreover, the design of currently used viral swabs may expose to accidental rupture, with risk of foreign body retention in the nasal cavities. In such cases, diagnosis and treatment are endoscopy-guided procedures performed in an adequate setting to minimize the risk of spreading of the pandemic.

Original languageEnglish
JournalEar, Nose and Throat Journal
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2021


  • COVID-19
  • endoscopy
  • foreign body
  • nasopharyngeal swab
  • SARS-CoV-2

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Otorhinolaryngology


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