Abstract Over a 6.5-year period, 5,848 patients who had ingested a foreign body were admitted to the ENT unit at the Prince of Wales Hospital in Hong Kong. Potentially serious complications developed in 12 patients (0.21%). Eight patients had an esophageal perforation; three had clinical evidence that their injury had been caused by the foreign body itself and five were deemed to have been injured iatrogenically during esophagoscopy. One of the latter group eventually developed an abscess. Four patients originally presented with an abscess. Three of these patients and the patient who later developed an abscess were treated with neck exploration and surgical drainage. One of the patients who initially presented with an abscess refused surgical treatment and was treated conservatively. Conservative treatment was also initiated for all patients who had a perforation. Patients on the conservative regimen were administered intravenous broad-spectrum antibiotics and were not permitted to take any food or liquids by mouth; they received their nutrition via either enteral feeding or total parenteral nutrition. Conservative treatment was successful in all seven patients with a perforation and no abscess and in the one patient with an abscess who refused surgery. Moreover, all four patients who underwent surgical treatment recovered. Our experience demonstrates that esophageal perforation related to an ingested foreign body can be safely treated by conservative means if the diagnosis is made before significant contamination occurs. Conversely, abscesses (cervical or mediastinal) related to an ingested foreign body should be explored and surgically drained.