Dr. Henry Heimlich died early Saturday in a Cincinnati Hospital at the age of 96. The surgeon was recognized for creating the anti-chocking maneuver back in the 70’ that was called after him.

The American surgeon’s invention has been used over the years to save people from choking. According to his son, the doctor died after he had a heart attack earlier this week. It is estimated that at least 100.00 people have been saved using the Heimlich Maneuver in the United States alone.

Dr. Henry Heimlich. Image Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS

Dr. Heimlich over the years

Henry Judah Heimlich will pass to the history as the surgeon who developed a technique that allows saving people from choking. He was born on 3 February 1920 in Wilmington, Delaware. He was born in a Jewish family. He attended to the New Rochelle high school in New York and then he went to Cornell University where he has a B.A in 1941. He received his master degree from the Weill Cornell Medical College in 1943.

He developed the life-saving maneuver – an abdominal thrust technique, in 1974 when he was director of surgery at the Jewish Hospital in Cincinnati. The maneuver was first described in Emergency medicine that year and it was named after its inventor.

Heimlich was married Jane Murray, who coauthored a homeopathy book. She also wrote, “What your Doctor won’t tell you”. They had four children. Phil, a conservative Christian radio talk-show host, Peter, who runs a web-site, Janet, a reporter, and Elisabeth Heimlich. None of them followed his father’s career.

Heimlich also invented the Micro Trach portable oxygen system for ambulatory patients. As well, he is responsible for the invention of the ‘Flutter valve’, or the ‘Heimlich chest drain Valve’, which is used to drain blood and air out of the chest cavity.

The famous Heimlich maneuver

Heimlich published its investigation about the maneuver in June 1974 through an informal article of the ‘Emergency medicine’ which was entitled “pop goes the café coronary”.

The Heimlich maneuver or abdominal thrusts is a procedure used to treat upper airway obstructions by strange objects. To perform it, the rescuer must stand behind the patient using both hands to make pressure on the bottom of the diaphragm. This ways the lungs are compressed and the object in the trachea can hopefully be expelled from the organism.

From 1976 to 1985, the choking-rescue guidelines set by the American Heart Association and the American Red Cross taught the rescuers to perform a series of black blows to remove the foreign body airway obstruction (FBAO). If failed, they could proceed with the Heimlich maneuver. However, it all changed after 1985, when the back blows were removed from the protocol.

From 1986 to 2005, the American Heart Association and the American Red Cross recommended only the Heimlich maneuver as the procedure applied in choking emergencies. Nowadays it is referred as Abdominal Thrusts, instead of Heimlich maneuver in such guidelines. As well, the new guidelines also permit chest thrusts and black blows to deal with choking.

On the other hand, the European Resuscitation Council recommends alternating between five back slaps and five abdominal thrusts in cases of severe airway obstructions. In Australia, authorities still believe there is not enough backup to assure that the use of abdominal thrusts is the best procedure for air obstructions. Chest thrusts are recommended there.

Image Credit: The Sun UK

The Heimlich maneuver today: Fraud and achievements

Tough the maneuver is referred in the choking-rescue guideless as abdominal thrusts, it is worldwide known to be an invention of Dr. Heimlich. However, his success has faced some controversies such as fraud. In 2003 Heimlich’s colleague Dr. Edward Patrick issued a press release where he said he was the co-developer of the maneuver. He said that he wanted credit for what he did.

Some have intended also to promote Heimlich’s invention as a procedure for drowning. However, the drowning rescue guidelines of the American Heart Association of 2005 did not mention the Heimlich maneuver as a way to save patients from drowning, and even warned about the risks of doing so, since it might produce vomiting leading to aspiration.

The Heimlich maneuver has been used to save about 100000 people in the United States, including the lives of former President Ronald Reagan, Elizabeth Taylor, Goldie Hawn, Carrie fisher and other celebrities.

Even Dr. Heimlich put in into practice twice. The first time was in 2003 when he saved a man from choking in a restaurant when he was 80 years old.

“I didn’t know I really could do it until the other day,” Said doctor Heimlich.

The second time was earlier this year when he saved a resident of his Senior Living Community, on May 23. Her name was Patty. The 87-year-old woman was choking due to a piece of meat bone.

Heimlich sadly had a heart attack last Monday. According to his son, Phil, the situation got complicated due in part to his father’s advanced age (96). He died earlier today at the Christ Hospital in Cincinnati.

Heimlich’s memoirs “Heimlich’s Maneuvers: My Seventy Years of Lifesaving Innovation” were published by Prometheus Book, two years ago.

Source: BBC News