Children's Hospital
6:00 am
Tue August 26, 2014

Children's surgeons use boy's rib to rebuild his throat

Almost four years after an Arizona boy swallowed a button battery that burned his esophagus and trachea, doctors at Cincinnati Children's Hospital, will rebuild his throat so he can eventually breathe without the help of a trach tube and learn to speak more clearly.

Emmett Rouch was 1 year old in 2010 when he swallowed the tiny battery that burned a hole in his esophagus and into his trachea. The boy spent many months in the hospital and underwent another surgery at Children's two years ago when doctors used part of his colon to repair the hole in his esophagus. This gave Emmett the ability to eat food through his mouth.

Wednesday's surgery

The rib-graft surgery, scheduled for Wednesday, is used to spread the vocal cords apart, which not only allows them to act properly, but also creates an airway passage.

“What’s really nice about the rib graft is it should be a one-and-done procedure," says Dr. Alessandro de Alarcon, the surgeon who will lead the operation. "The biggest risk is the graft not taking, which is about a five-percent chance."

“This will be a major step in helping little Emmett be a normal boy,” says Dr. de Alarcon. “If all goes well, the trach tube will be removed within the next year.  He wants to play soccer, so we think he’ll be able to do that and play other sports if he wants, which is important for his childhood development.”

Emmett's mom on mission to educate parents

On her website, Emmett's mother Karla Rouch said, "We were completely ignorant to the danger lurking so close to our small sons." Initially the Rouchs didn't know what was wrong with Emmett when he started getting sicker and sicker. Evntually an X-ray showed the battery. She searched the Internet for more information on the effects but there was very little information. Through her website she hopes to let other parents know how serious this can be.