The Heimlich maneuver can remove a large bolus of food or other foreign object that is obstructing the upper airway by a rapid increase in intrathoracic pressure. Unfortunately this potentially life-saving technique may result in serious injury to the patient.


Traumatic injury:

(1) fractured rib(s)

(2) esophageal rupture

(3) gastric rupture

(4) jejunal rupture

(5) pneumomediastinum

(6) ruptured aortic valve cusp

(7) diaphragmatic hernia

(8) mesenteric laceration and/or contusions


Other complications:

(1) vomiting with aspiration

(2) thrombosis of an aortic aneurysm

(3) asphyxia (with failure to dislodge)


The risk for injury may be increased by:

(1) poor technique on the part of the responder, especially if the person is lying supine

(2) application of excessive force


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