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Henry Heimlich, inventor of the Heimlich Maneuver, was always an ideas man–at least until today. The 96 year old Heimlich, who is still mentally sharp–and apparently strong–saved a friend’s life with the technique he devised more than 40 years ago.

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How did it work? Perfectly. Just ask the 87 choking victim. At lunch in the Dupree House, where she and Heimlich both are spending their Golden years, she choked on a piece of meat. Heimlich jumped into action, positioned himself behind the woman, and performed the Heimlich Maneuver.

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The piece of meat dislodged from the woman’s throat and she recovered quickly.

And if her experience isn’t enough, you could look at the list of people saved. It is long. Among the famous names saved by the Heimlich Maneuver are these people: Ronald Reagan, former New York Mayor Ed Koch, Elizabeth Taylor, Goldie Hawn, Cher, Carrie Fisher, Dick Vitale, Jack Lemmon, Walter Matthau.

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Healthresearchfunding.org lists these as the most significant statistics about the maneuver.

Statistics on the Heimlich Maneuver

  • Choking is the fourth leading cause of accidental death in the United States.
  • Dr. Heimlich claims that the proper application of his maneuver has saved the lives of 100,000 potential choking victims.
  • 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.
  • More than 90% of deaths from foreign object occur in children younger than 5 years old.
  • 65% of choking deaths occur in infants.
  • Liquids are the most common cause of choking in infants.
  • Candy is associated with 19% of all choking-related emergency department visits by children ages 14 years or younger.
  • 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.
  • The maneuver is used mainly when solid material like food, coins, vomit, or small toys are blocking the airway.

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  • 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.
  • The standard Heimlich Maneuver requires 6 to 10 sharp upward thrusts to dislodge an object that has become stuck.
  • 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.
  • The diaphragm provides more than 80% of respiratory exchange, which is why abdominal thrusts are more effective than chest thrusts.
  • 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.
  • Dr. Heimlich always intended his maneuver to be practiced by the public at large, rather than exclusively by health professionals.

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  • Since 2006, the American Red Cross has “downgraded” the Heimlich maneuver, referring to it only as “abdominal thrusts.”
  • 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.”
  • At least one child dies from choking on food every five days in the U.S.
  • 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.
  • More than 10,000 children are taken to a hospital emergency room each year for food-choking injuries.
  • It only takes 4 minutes without air for brain damage to become possible when choking is occurring.
  • For every choking-related death, there are more than 100 visits to U.S. emergency departments.