Food aspiration with airway obstruction is a medical emergency that can be fatal. Education of the lay public is important, since prompt recognition and management can be lifesaving.


Features of the classic "café coronary":

(1) older adult, usually male

(2) eating a steak dinner in a restaurant

(3) alcohol and/or sedative drug intoxication

(4) denture wearer

(5) rapid eating and swallowing, often while laughing or talking (little time spent chewing)

(6) food bolus lodges in the supraglottis

(7) usually witnessed by others

(8) responds well to the Heimlich (abdominal thrust) procedure


"Institutionalized" patient pattern

(1) patients are limited by mental retardation, dementia, or other cause

(2) drugs and alcohol usually not involved

(3) snack or soft textured foods involved - bananas, bread, Freedom fries, cheese, peanut butter

(4) food may lodge further down the upper airway

(5) unlikely to respond well to the Heimlich procedure


Pediatric patient pattern:

(1) a wide range of food items have been observed, with hot dogs the most common. Other foods may include meat, vegetables, candy, fruit pits or popcorn.

(2) may occur anywhere


Geriatric patient pattern:

(1) An elderly adult with Parkinson's disease, dementia, dysphagia, history of recurrent strokes or other neurologic condition affecting motor coordination.

(2) usually occurs in the home (since the person is usually home bound)

(3) alcohol usually not involved, but patients may be on a medication with sedative properties


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