|Classification and external resources|
A demonstration of abdominal thrusts on a person showing signs of choking
|ICD-10||F41.0, R06.8, T17, W78-W80|
Choking is the mechanical obstruction of the flow of air from the environment into the lungs. Choking prevents breathing, and can be partial or complete, with partial choking allowing some, although inadequate, flow of air into the lungs. Prolonged or complete choking results in asphyxia which leads to anoxia and is potentially fatal. Oxygen stored in the blood and lungs keep the victim alive for several minutes after breathing is stopped completely.
Choking can be caused by:
- Physical obstruction of the airway by a foreign body.
- Respiratory diseases that involve obstruction of the airway.
- Compression of the laryngopharynx, larynx or vertebrate trachea in strangulation.
- 1 Symptoms and signs
- 2 Cause
- 3 Treatment
- 4 Notable cases
- 5 Other uses of abdominal thrusts
- 6 See also
- 7 References
- 8 External links
Symptoms and signs
- The person cannot speak or cry out, or has great difficulty and limited ability to do so.
- Breathing, if possible, is labored, producing gasping or wheezing.
- The person has a violent and largely involuntary cough, gurgle, or vomiting noise, though more serious choking victims will have a limited (if any) ability to produce these symptoms since they require at least some air movement.
- The person desperately clutches his or her throat or mouth, or attempts to induce vomiting by putting their fingers down their throat.
- If breathing is not restored, the person's face turns blue (cyanosis) from lack of oxygen.
- The person does any or all of the above, and if breathing is not restored, then becomes unconscious
The type of choking most commonly recognized as such by the public is the lodging of foreign objects (also known as foreign bodies, but consisting of any object which comes from outside the body itself, including food, toys or household objects) in the airway.
This type of choking is often suffered by small children, who are unable to appreciate the hazard inherent in putting small objects in their mouth. In adults, it mostly occurs whilst the patient is eating. In one study, peanuts were the most common obstruction.
Choking can be treated with a number of different procedures, with both basic techniques available for first aiders and more advanced techniques available for health professionals. In the United States, members of the public commonly assume that abdominal thrusts, also known as the Heimlich maneuver, are the correct procedure for choking, due to widespread promotion of this technique in the past, including recommendations from the American Heart Association and the American Red Cross. People elsewhere also often assume this, due in part to widespread use of this technique in movies.
Most modern protocols, including those of the American Heart Association and the American Red Cross, recommend several stages, designed to apply increasingly more pressure. The Red Cross changed their recommendation in 2006, ending their promotion of abdominal thrusts as the primary treatment for choking.
The key stages in most modern protocols include:
Encouraging the victim to cough
This stage was introduced in many protocols as it was found that many people were too quick to undertake potentially dangerous interventions, such as abdominal thrusts, for items which could have been dislodged without intervention. Also, if the choking is caused by an irritating substance rather than an obstructing one, and if conscious, the patient should be allowed to drink water on their own to try to clear the throat. Since the airway is already closed, there is very little danger of water entering the lungs. Coughing is normal after most of the irritant has cleared, and at this point the patient will probably refuse any additional water for a short time.
The majority of protocols now advocate the use of hard blows with the heel of the hand on the upper back of the victim. The number to be used varies by training organization, but is usually between five and twenty. For example, the Mayo Clinic recommends five blows between the shoulder blades.
The back slap is designed to use percussion to create pressure behind the blockage, assisting the patient in dislodging the article. In some cases the physical vibration of the action may also be enough to cause movement of the article sufficient to allow clearance of the airway.
Almost all protocols give back slaps as a technique to be used before potentially damaging interventions such as abdominal thrusts. Henry Heimlich, noted for promulgating abdominal thrusts, claimed that back slaps were proven to cause death by lodging foreign objects into the windpipe. The 1982 Yale study by Day, DuBois, and Crelin that "persuaded the American Heart Association to stop recommending back blows for dealing with choking...was partially funded by Heimlich's own foundation." According to Roger White MD of the Mayo Clinic and American Heart Association (AHA), "There was never any science here. Heimlich overpowered science all along the way with his slick tactics and intimidation, and everyone, including us at the AHA, caved in."
Abdominal thrusts, also known by the proprietary name the Heimlich maneuver (or manoeuvre (UK) ) (after Henry Heimlich, who first described the procedure in a June 1974 informal article entitled "Pop Goes the Cafe Coronary", published in the journal Emergency Medicine). Edward A. Patrick, MD, PhD, an associate of Heimlich, has claimed to be the uncredited co-developer of the procedure. Heimlich has objected to the name "abdominal thrusts" on the grounds that the vagueness of the term "abdomen" could cause the rescuer to exert force at the wrong site.
Performing abdominal thrusts involves a rescuer standing behind a patient and using his or her hands to exert pressure on the bottom of the diaphragm. This compresses the lungs and exerts pressure on any object lodged in the trachea, hopefully expelling it. This amounts to an artificial cough. For example, WebMD recommends the rescuer placing his or her fist just above the person's bellybutton and grasping with other hand. To assist a larger person, more force may be needed. The Mayo Clinic recommends the same placement of fist and hand and upward thrusts as if you are trying to lift the person. In addition, keep trying and alternate between five back blows, five abdominal thrusts, five back blows, and so on.
Due to the forceful nature of the procedure, even when done correctly, it can injure the person on whom it is performed. Bruising to the abdomen is highly likely and more serious injuries can occur, including fracture of the xiphoid process or ribs.
In some areas, such as Australia, authorities believe that there is not enough scientific evidence to support the use of abdominal thrusts and their use is not recommended in first aid. Instead, chest thrusts are recommended.
A modified version of the technique is sometimes taught for use with pregnant and/or obese patients. The rescuer places their hand in the center of the chest to compress, rather than in the abdomen. Due to the fact that the Heimlich maneuver can inflict numerous injuries, the government of Australia recommends chest compressions for all individuals, irrespective of size, instead of the Heimlich maneuver. These compressions are performed by applying pressure to the lower portion of the sternum in a manner which is quicker than the chest compressions done in CPR. A study by the Norwegian Department of Research and Education in Acute Medicine demonstrated that chest compressions are more effective than the Heimlich maneuver. 
Self treatment with abdominal thrusts
A person may also perform abdominal thrusts on themselves by using a fixed object such as a railing or the back of a chair to apply pressure where a rescuer's hands would normally do so. As with other forms of the procedure, it is possible that internal injuries may result.
Some protocols advocate the use of the rescuer's finger to 'sweep' foreign objects away once they have reached the mouth. However, many modern protocols recommend against the use of the finger sweep since, if the patient is conscious, they will be able to remove the foreign object themselves, or if they are unconscious, the rescuer should simply place them in the recovery position (where the object should fall out due to gravity). There is also a risk of causing further damage (for instance inducing vomiting) by using a finger sweep technique.
Direct vision removal
The advanced medical procedure to remove such objects is inspection of the airway with a laryngoscope or bronchoscope, and removal of the object under direct vision, followed by CPR if the patient does not start breathing on their own. Severe cases where there is an inability to remove the object may require cricothyrotomy.
In most protocols, once the patient has become unconscious, the emphasis switches to performing CPR, involving both chest compressions and artificial respiration. These actions are often enough to dislodge the item sufficiently for air to pass it, allowing gaseous exchange in the lungs.
- The former President of the United States, George W. Bush, survived choking on a pretzel on January 13, 2002, an event that received major media coverage.
- Jimmie Foxx, a famous Major League Baseball player, died by choking on a bone.
- Tennessee Williams, the playwright, died after choking on a bottle cap.
- An urban legend states that obese singer Mama Cass choked to death on a ham sandwich. This was borne out of a quickly discarded speculation by the coroner, who noted a partly eaten ham sandwich and figured she may have choked to death. In fact, she died of a heart condition, often wrongly referred to in the media as heart failure.
- Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother notably experienced three major choking incidents where a fish bone became lodged in her throat: initially on 21 November 1982, when she was taken from Royal Lodge to the King Edward VII Hospital for an operation at 3am;secondly in August 1986 at Balmoral, when she was taken to the Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, though no operation was needed;and in May 1993, when she was admitted to the Aberdeen Infirmary once again for an operation under general anaesthetic.
Other uses of abdominal thrusts
Dr. Heimlich has advocated the use of the technique as a treatment for drowning and asthma attacks. The Red Cross contests his claims that the maneuver could help drowning victims and someone suffering an asthma attack. The Heimlich Institute has stopped advocating on their website for the Heimlich maneuver to be used as a first aid measure for drowning victims. His son, Peter M. Heimlich, alleges that in August 1974 his father published the first of a series of fraudulent case reports in order to promote the use of abdominal thrusts for near-drowning rescue.
- Ross, Darrell Lee; Chan, Theodore C (2006). Sudden Deaths in Custody. ISBN 978-1-59745-015-7.
- "Foreign Body Aspiration: Overview - eMedicine". Retrieved 2008-12-16.
- "Choking Prevention". American Academy of Pediatrics (healthychildren.org). 2010-06-14.
- Yadav SP, Singh J, Aggarwal N, Goel A (September 2007). "Airway foreign bodies in children: experience of 132 cases". Singapore Med J 48 (9): 850–3. PMID 17728968.
- "Girl, 7, saves mom's life with move she remembered from Mrs Doubtfire movie". November 18, 2013.
- "The American Red Cross Unveils Innovative New First Aid and CPR/AED Training Programs". American National Red Cross. April 04, 2006. Archived from the original on April 29, 2006.
- Foreign object inhaled: First aid, Mayo Clinic staff, Nov. 1, 2011.
- Guildner CW, Williams D, Subitch T (September 1976). "Airway obstructed by foreign material: the Heimlich maneuver". JACEP 5 (9): 675–7. doi:10.1016/S0361-1124(76)80099-8. PMID 1018395.
- Langhelle A, Sunde K, Wik L, Steen PA (April 2000). "Airway pressure with chest compressions versus Heimlich manoeuvre in recently dead adults with complete airway obstruction". Resuscitation 44 (2): 105–8. doi:10.1016/S0300-9572(00)00161-1. PMID 10767497.
- "Heimlich, on the maneuver". New York Times. 2009-02-06. Retrieved 2009-02-07.
- "Lifejackets on Ice (August 2005)". University of Pittsburgh Medical School. Retrieved 2009-05-24.
- Pamela Mills-Senn. "A New Maneuver (August 2005)". Cincinnati Magazine. Retrieved 2009-05-24.
- "Patrick Institute". Retrieved 2008-09-08.
- John R. Fletemeyer, Sports Aid Intl Inc, Samuel James Freas (1998). Drowning: new perspectives on intervention and prevention. Informa Health Care. ISBN 978-1-57444-223-6.
- Heimlich Maneuver for Adults and Children Older Than 1 Year - Topic Overview, WebMD, April 28, 2010.
- Broomfield, James (2007-01-01). "Heimlich maneuver on self". Discovery Channel. Retrieved 2007-06-15.
- Swan, Norman (27 July 2009). "The Heimlich manoeuvre". The Health Report. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 2009-07-27. "...the reason it's not taught is the simple fact that research conducted here in Australia and also overseas has proven that it can be dangerous..."
- , Australian Resuscitation Council FAQ, August 14, 2012.
- , Airway pressure with chest compressions versus Heimlich manoeuvre in recently dead adults with complete airway obstruction. , April 2000.
- American Medical Association (2009-05-05). American Medical Association Handbook of First Aid and Emergency Care. Random House. ISBN 978-1-4000-0712-7.
- "Bush makes light of pretzel scare". BBC News. 2002-01-14. Retrieved 2007-06-15.
- "Jimmie Foxx Obituary". Retrieved 2007-06-15.
- "Biography of Tennessee Williams". IMDB. Retrieved 2007-06-15.
- "Urban Legend of Mama Cass choking". Snopes Urban Legend Reference. Retrieved 2007-06-15.
- Vickers, Hugo (2005). Elizabeth, the Queen Mother. London: Hutchinson. p. 449. ISBN 0-09-180010-2.
- "Queen Mother recovers after operation". BBC News. 1999-01-25. Retrieved 2009-08-22.
- "Heimlich Institute on rescuing drowning victims". Retrieved 2007-06-05.
- "Heimlich Institute on rescuing asthma victims". Retrieved 2007-06-05.
- Heimlich, Peter M. "'Outmaneuvered - How We Busted the Heimlich Medical Frauds'". Retrieved 2007-06-22.