Vaginal Foreign Bodies
When to Seek Medical Care
A health care provider should be consulted when any change in vaginal discharge is present, particularly discharge which is foul-smelling or abnormal in color. The presence of a foreign body may cause abnormal vaginal bleeding.
If a foreign object was placed in the vagina and may still be there, the health care provider should be informed. Occasionally, an adult or adolescent woman may remember placing a tampon, but then be unable to remove it from the vagina.
Unusual objects may need to be removed using sedation or anesthesia in order to avoid pain. This may be particularly true of objects placed in the vagina of a small child or an adult who is unable to be cooperative with a vaginal exam. Some emergency departments allow sedation and removal in the emergency department without going to an operating room.
Exams and Tests for Vaginal Foreign Bodies
Vaginal foreign bodies are seen more commonly in children than in adolescent or adult women. Children may not be able to supply the history of an object placed in the vagina; however, some children will say that they have lost an object in their vagina. In addition to obtaining specific information about a possible vaginal foreign body, a health care provider will perform a general history and physical exam as well.
It is appropriate for the health care provider to ask about questions related to sexual activity and sexual or physical abuse.
Methods for diagnosing and retrieving foreign bodies depend on the age of the female patient and sometimes the duration of time the object has been in the vagina.
For young girls, any visit to a doctor's office can be frightening. If a foreign object is suspected in a young girl, the physician may gently examine the vulva and vaginal entrance by separating the labia and glimpsing the foreign object. This may allow removal in the office through such techniques as warm water flushing of the vagina, but other larger objects may require sedation or examination under anesthesia for removal.
An adolescent patient may easily have a foreign body removed from the vagina in the outpatient setting. This may also hold true for adults. Visualization of the foreign body using a speculum and removal with a forceps may be the most efficient treatment.
- Unusual objects or those that may disrupt to the vaginal wall may require sedation or anesthesia for removal, and to complete a thorough exam of the vagina and cervix.
- If an object has been present in the vagina for a long time, that object may cause erosion into the wall of the vagina. Acute placement of an unusual object in the vagina may cause perforation of the vaginal wall and secondary symptoms of an intra-abdominal infection.
- Although examination generally reveals the presence of a foreign body, some imaging techniques may also be helpful. These may include a CT (computerized tomography) scan or an abdominal X-ray. Ultrasonography may also assist in the location of a foreign body in the vagina or pelvis.