Heimlich Manuever outdated?

30 Aug

I’m sure many of us have seen the Heimlich maneuver used in movies to alleviate a choking victim. For some reason I thought that this was an old practice made by some German scientist, but I was wrong. Heimlich is American and the heimlich maneuver is relatively new practice introduced in 1974 and used as the preferred method of rescuing a choking victim.

However, I was shocked to find that this practice that I had taken for granted as being the right way to deal with a choking victim was only the medically proper way of dealing with choking from 1986-2005. I could swear that I’ve seen countless movies where they use this to help a choking victim, but now that I think of it, I can’t think of a black and white film where the person uses the heimlich maneuver or refers to it. Also, the heimlich maneuver is not even the chosen protocol for dealing with a choking victim anymore, Heimlich was proven to be a fraud in other case studies (he falsified studies to prove the Heimlich was effective for drowning victims and was exposed by his own son), and he might of even stole the idea from a colleague (Dr. Edward Patrick).

First off, the universal sign for choking is for the patient to hold the open palms around their neck as if to self strangle themselves, but a better indicator for those of use medically inclined and responsible for crisis situations is if the patient is making any sound. A complete obstruction of the airway will cause a disturbing silence when the patient is trying desperately to cough, make noise, and tell someone they are choking. The next sign that the person is not breathing properly is that that their face will turn blue (cyanosis) and they will then lose conciousness leading to anoxia of the brain and then death.

What to do when you see someone choking:

1) First make sure that the person is choking and cannot breathe properly. If you hear some wheezing then they may have a partial obstruction, but can still obtain oxygen. If the choking is partial, drinking water may help to dislodge the bolus.  If the person is choking encourage them to cough if they can. If they can’t:

2) Perform 5 strong blows to the middle of the back with the heel of your hand.

3) If the patient is unconcious and laying on their back you may do a finger sweep. The purpose is to dislodge any obstruction that might be superficial enough to sweep clear with a finger. Using a pinkie sweep the back of the airway being careful not to stick your finger directly into the trachea inducing vomitting. You wouldn’t want a choking victim to vomit or aspirate into the lung.

4) If this doesn’t work, then the patient may be at the crucial point where CPR may need to be performed. The chest thrusting may provide enough vibration to dislodge the obstruction, if so lean the patient on his or her side so that gravity can help to further clear the obstruction.


Though the Heimlich maneuver is not taught anymore as choking rescue protocol, if all else fails, no hurt in trying it. Plus if the name and seeing it performed (ala Naked Gun movies) helps a person to remember what to do when a person is choking, then all for the better. Remember when it comes to saving lives the ends justify the means (at least in this case).

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Posted by on August 30, 2011 in Health Restorations


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