The Heimlich Maneuver is one of the most frequent live saving aids that is taught today. It’s been included in First Aid classes, is taught by the Red Cross, and is considered one of the best techniques to save a choking victim’s life when something gets stuck in the throat. It was initially invented in 1974 and has become an integral part of worldwide society ever since.
Statistics on the Heimlich Maneuver
1. Choking is the fourth leading cause of accidental death in the United States.
2. Dr. Heimlich claims that the proper application of his maneuver has saved the lives of 100,000 potential choking victims.
3. In 2010, the most recent year for which statistics have been compiled, choking claimed 4,700 lives. This was a 4% increase over the previous year.
4. More than 90% of deaths from foreign object occur in children younger than 5 years old.
5. 65% of choking deaths occur in infants.
6. Liquids are the most common cause of choking in infants.
7. Candy is associated with 19% of all choking-related emergency department visits by children ages 14 years or younger.
8. 10.5% of children treated in the emergency department for choking episodes were admitted to the hospital or transferred to a facility with a higher level of care.
9. The maneuver is used mainly when solid material like food, coins, vomit, or small toys are blocking the airway.
10. The Heimlich maneuver can be performed on all people, but modifications are necessary if the choking victim is very obese, pregnant, a child, or an infant.
11. The standard Heimlich Maneuver requires 6 to 10 sharp upward thrusts to dislodge an object that has become stuck.
12. A 1985 Surgeon General’s warning against backslaps, chest thrusts, and abdominal thrusts has never been mentioned or cited by the ARC or the AHA.
13. The diaphragm provides more than 80% of respiratory exchange, which is why abdominal thrusts are more effective than chest thrusts.
14. It is more common to cause chest injuries, including organ lacerations, from CPR being applied to a choking individual than if the Heimlich Maneuver were used.
15. Dr. Heimlich always intended his maneuver to be practiced by the public at large, rather than exclusively by health professionals.
16. Since 2006, the American Red Cross has “downgraded” the Heimlich maneuver, referring to it only as “abdominal thrusts.”
17. Peter Heimlich, who is the son of Dr. Heimlich, has long curated a website refuting his father’s contributions to modern medicine and referring to his father as “a spectacular con man and serial liar.”
18. At least one child dies from choking on food every five days in the U.S.
19. Accidental injuries, including choking and drowning, are the leading cause of death in children and send over 16 million kids a year to the emergency room.
20. More than 10,000 children are taken to a hospital emergency room each year for food-choking injuries.
21. It only takes 4 minutes without air for brain damage to become possible when choking is occurring.
22. For every choking-related death, there are more than 100 visits to U.S. emergency departments.
Heimlich Maneuver Application
What is interesting about the modern application of the Heimlich Maneuver is that it is different from what Dr. Henry Heimlich initially invented it to be. Instead of abdominal thrusts being applied immediately, for example, the American Red Cross teaches individuals that 5 back slaps should be applied, followed by 5 abdominal thrusts. Then the process is repeated until emergency help arrives or the item becomes dislodged.
There has never been any research saying the back slap saves lives,” Heimlich told USA Today in an interview in 2013. “We know the Heimlich maneuver works. So it comes down to a matter of life or death. “Many scientific studies have proven if a person is choking and the food is in the airway, if you hit them on the back, it causes the food to go deeper and tighter into the airway.”
As the statistics of the Heimlich Maneuver show, the stakes are very high. Applying the method incorrectly could be the very difference in a life being saved or a life being lost. Dr. Heimlich himself believes that more lives could have been saved if his original methods of dislodging an item from a throat were used instead of the updated model. Could he be correct? Would there be fewer choking deaths if the correct methods of the Heimlich Maneuver were consistently applied?
Credibility of Dr. Heimlich
Why is there some doubts as to the credibility of Dr. Heimlich? Is there a reason why the Red Cross is trying to distance themselves from him? It could be because of his malaria experiments. Dr. Heimlich believes that diseases like AIDS and cancer can be cured by the purposeful injection of malaria. If malaria sits in the body for long enough, his theory is that it will destroy the unwanted cells or viruses so it can be the dominant disease in the body. To prove this, he even injected people with malaria in 1985 and didn’t treat them for several weeks.
Many of the claims that Dr. Henry Heimlich have made over the years are open to challenge. Medical experts disagree with his observation that the Heimlich Maneuver can help to save a drowning victim. His claims that he provided chest drain valves that saved tens of thousands of lives during the Vietnam War cannot be proven. It is easy to see how many might think of this doctor as a bit of a con man.
On the other hand, there is no doubt that the Heimlich Maneuver works. Just one week after the first story of his maneuver was printed in American newspapers, it was reportedly used to save the life of a woman who was choking on a piece of chicken. It’s been a documented success. Con man or not, Dr. Henry Heimlich has saved thousands of lives with the invention of this maneuver.