Heimlich maneuver – What are the steps and its success rate?

Heimlich maneuver
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How to do heimlich maneuver on chocking person?

Heimlich maneuver is a procedure done on someone who is choking.

According to the AHA report, the Heimlich maneuver has a success rate of 70 – 86% if done properly. It means if you do the proper Heimlich maneuver, you can save 86% of cases. It doesn’t need any special training or qualification to do the procedure and yet, you can save someone’s life just by knowing the basic steps. I think it is worth knowing right?

Historical background of the Heimlich maneuver

Heimlich maneuver was invented by Henry Judah Heimlich. He was a thoracic surgeon born in 1920. At that time choking was the sixth most common cause of death in the United States. His first experiment was with dogs. He discovered that if he applied upward pressure on the diaphragm, it created a strong current of air that can shot foreign objects out of the dog’s throat. He immediately got recognition and manage to be published in newspapers all over the country as the inventor of the Heimlich maneuver – the procedure that can save the life of choking victims.

Why everyone should know the steps of the Heimlich maneuver?

Our brain can survive only 5 minutes without blood flow. It needs a constant flow of oxygen to metabolize glucose which is the main source of energy for the brain. Unlike muscle and other human body parts that can also use ketone to function, the brain only uses glucose to function. So no blood flow or oxygen delivery to the brain results in neuronal death in the brain. And most of the time, the damages are irreversible. So if someone is choking (complete blockage of the airway), there is a high chance he or she will not survive if we wait until they reach the hospital.

So everyone should know the steps of the Heimlich maneuver because you might save a life one day.

When do we start to do the Heimlich maneuver?

Airway obstruction can be partial or complete. If it is partial, the patient will likely remove the foreign body by him/herself as he/she can cough and breathe. But in case of complete airway blockage, the person can’t cough, breathe, and communicate. It is an emergency where the individual should get immediate help to survive. So we should start to do the Heimlich maneuver on someone unable to remove the foreign body just by coughing or in case of complete airway obstruction.

How do we know if someone is choking?

It might not always be easy to spot when someone is choking. Especially if it is complete airways obstruction since the individual might be unable to produce any word or voice.

When someone is choking, you usually see the following signs.

  • He/she usually clenched his/her hands clutched to the throat.
  • He/she will unable to talk. They might have trouble breathing or noisy breathing.
  • Despite the assumptions, coughing is a good sign when we come to choking. If the person can cough, that means he or she can at least pass some air into his/her lung. That means airway obstruction is partial. The other reason is, coughing is one of the protective mechanisms of the airway. So if the person can cough, he/she has a chance to push out the foreign material from the airway.
  • The severe signs of choking include loss of consciousness, blue or dusky skin, lips, and nails. That means there is low oxygen in the body which is already affecting the brain. And if the choking continues, the person might die.
  • In younger children, the choking episodes might not even witness by the parents. Especially if it is partial airway blockage. They usually present with respiratory tract infection days after the choking episode. so the baby will have progressive shortness of breath, fever, cough, and offensive sputum (in older children). which means the foreign particle already results in infection days after the choking episode.

So we should start to do the Heimlich maneuver on someone with the above sign and symptoms.

What are the steps?

Heimlich maneuver or abdominal trust is one of the maneuvers we do if someone is choking mostly on adults or younger children (more than one year of age). The science behind the Heimlich maneuver is it increase intraabdominal pressure which in turn increases intrathoracic pressure. So that the foreign body will expel from the airway.

The steps are

  1. Stand behind the person who is choking
  2. Place your arm around their abdomen and lean them forward a little bit.
  3. Clench one of your hand and place the other hand on the top of the clenched hand
  4. Then apply in and out the pressure on the abdomen of the choked individual.
  5. Repeat the process up to 5 times in one cycle.

See the steps on the video below for better understanding.

See the real life example of Heimlich maneuver on the next video

if nobody is around, the choking individual can do the maneuver him/herself by bending over a chair or table, then by placing your fist against your chest and wrap your other hand around it and lean over the edge then putting increased pressure on your fist until the object is expelled. See the video below.

That way you can save yourself and others just by applying these simple steps.

Written by admin

Hey, I am Tinsae, a medical intern from Ethiopia. I blog about amazing experiences, stories and tips which help you to have less stressful medical life. Read more about me here.Read more about me here.

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  1. What should I do if someone is Choking? - […] these kinds of emergencies. She was able to save her friend by doing a simple maneuver called the Heimlich…

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