UMEM Educational Pearls

Category: Toxicology

Title: Caustic Injury

Keywords: caustic (PubMed Search)

Posted: 7/29/2010 by Fermin Barrueto, MD (Updated: 9/23/2023)
Click here to contact Fermin Barrueto, MD

Ingestion of caustics can lead to immediate burns to mouth, esophagus, stomach as well as possible perforation. Months and years later, further complications are esophageal stenosis and increased incidence of esophageal carcinoma. The main benefit to EGD is to determine extent of injury within the esophagus. The lesions are graded much like a burn: 

Grade I: Mild burn, no risk for esophageal stenosis

Grade II: Moderate, if circumferential, patient is at risk for esophageal stenosis

Grade II: Eschar present, high risk of perforation as well as esophagel stenosis

You can make a case that all intentional-suicidal ingestions of caustics should undergo EGD since there should be some injury if ingestion truly occurred or at the least a higher probability. The difficult case is the pediatric unintentional ingestion. Utilizing clinical exam and history will assist with that determination - there is a little research to guide this decision (next pearl)

The attached picture is the post-mortem of a caustic injury showing grade II linear lesions in esophagus with eschar distally and in stomach (Grade III).