Ingestion of a foreign body (FB) is a prevalent condition among children. The type of FB varies according to the feeding habits and sociocultural features of communities. The management modality differs also between disciplines due to use of conventional techniques. We aimed to picture the general characteristics of FB ingestion and treatment alternatives, to mention the indications of open surgery in an advanced pediatric surgical center. The records of patients who were hospitalized for FB ingestion between 1973 and May 2005 were evaluated retrospectively. One hundred and twelve patients were enrolled into the study. The mean age was 2.27 +/- 2.84 years with a M/F ratio of 59/53. The history was suggestive of ingestion in 92% of patients. The age did not differ significantly whether the history was positive or negative (3.6 years vs. 4.8 years and P = 0.19). Most common presenting symptom was vomiting (28.6%). The duration of symptoms was longer in patients with negative history (median 47.7 h vs. 28.1 h and P < 0.002). Physical examination was normal in 89.3% of cases. Most common localization of the FB shown in plain X-ray was the esophagus (67%). Esophagography revealed nonopaque FB in the esophagus in 4.4%. X-ray was normal in 6.3% of the patients. The age of patient did not determine the localization of FB on admission (P = 0.436). Endoscopic removal was attempted in 75% and was successful in 68% of patients in which FB was extracted by using laryngoscope and Magill forceps (12%), rigid esophagoscope with FB forceps (51%), and flexible endoscope with FB forceps (5%). FB could not be found in 32% of patients at initial rigid esophagoscopy or flexible endoscopy. FB was eliminated spontaneously (n = 19) or extracted surgically (n = 8). Follow-up was preferred in 21% of patients on initial admission. FB proceeded uneventfully in 15 patients or was extracted by flexible endoscopy or surgery in one and eight patients, respectively. Surgery was performed in 4% on admission. Surgery or endoscopy were essentially required in cases whose follow-up period exceeded 4 days when compared with patients who eliminated FB spontaneously within 4 days, independent to the location of FB. The metallic objects were the frequently ingested FBs (83.8%) in which the safety pins (SPs) (n = 53) and coins (n = 25) were the most frequent. The type of FB did not affect the FB localization on admission (P = 0.38). The duration of hospitalization was longer in patients with delayed admission; 2.46 +/- 3.51, 3.80 +/- 8.17, and 5.72 +/- 4.24 days for the admissions within first, second-fifth days, and sixth or later days after ingestion, respectively (P = 0.000). Pediatric surgery has the largest spectrum of duty in the treatment of FB ingestion in children. Negative history, normal physical examination findings and absence of symptoms do not exclude the possibility of FB ingestion. Presentation with isolated respiratory symptoms is an enigma that can lead to misdiagnoses. The mode of management should be selected according to the patient's condition, surgeon's experience, and available technical equipment as well as the location and type of ingested FB. Especially, SPs should be treated by experienced surgeons. Simple extraction techniques and both rigid and flexible endoscopies with appropriate forceps as well as surgery can be used for the extraction of FBs lodged in the alimentary tract. Surgery can be expected especially in asymptomatic cases that have been followed up for more than 4 days irrespective of the location of FB.