Questions regarding the Heimlich maneuver

I recently swallowed some gristle which thankfully didn’t get stuck in my esophagus. I caught it just as it entered the pharynx and pulled it out. Retching didn’t dislodge it. I had to pull it out. it was quite slippery and half of it was stuck in the pharynx (I believe that is the part just before the esophagus. Given that the gristle was so slippery but too big to go down my throat, would a Heimlich maneuver have even worked? I know it work for solid foods, but for slippery food like gristle?

I look forward to your feedback

IANAD, but my understanding of the Heimlich from first aid training is that it expels a blockage by pushing air out. So something slippery would come out easier. Perhaps a partial blockage would not, if some air could get by. But then presumably you wouldn’t die, it would just be uncomfortable.

If it is stuck in your esophagus, it is uncomfortable but not life threatening (as **Riemann **points out). It will eventually work its way down into your stomach, especially if it’s slippery. And you’ll know it is in your esophagus because you are able to breathe.

If it is in your trachea - or otherwise blocking your airway - now is the time for action. You can Heimlich yourself with your fists clasped together under your ribcage, or you can bend yourself over a chair or railing and create the upward thrusting motion that uses forced air to expel a foreign object.

The classical Heimlich maneuver with upward abdominal thrusting under the ribcage is no longer recommended by either the American Red Cross or the American Heart Association because of the potential for serious injury, especially to children and the elderly who are most prone to choking. Vigorous back slaps, followed by inward (but not upward) thrusts below the floating ribs should be applied to a choking victim, which works by creating pressure on the diaphram that compresses the lungs and forces air out of the trachea. The maneuver should not be performed on a drowning victim as it is likely to cause vomiting and aspiration; instead, the victim should should be placed on their side if there is evidence of a stable pulse and airway progress, or on the back with CPR chest compressions if no pulse or breathing is detected. Liquid within the lungs will be forced out by normal pulmonary action although all drowning victims should receive immediate evacuation and hospital examination because of the potential for acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) resulting from trauma to the alveoli and inflammation of the pulmonary pleurae. As others have noted, an obstruction in the esophagus, while uncomfortable and may cause reflexive gagging, will not be resolved by abdominal thrusting and generally requires mechanical extraction of the offending morsel if it does not work its way free via peristaltic action.

Henry Heimlich’s case studies used to justify the eponymous maneuver are widely considered to be exaggerated if not outright fraudulent, and he otherwise promoted pseudoscientific treatments such as homeopathy and malariotherapy as a treatment for cancer and AIDS. Heimlich is credited with the invention of the thoracic flutter valve to treat pneumonothorax, although other field surgeons had employed similar jury-rigged devices since the Korean War. article on Dr. Henry Heimlich.


The AHA absolutely still teaches upward abdominal thrusts and not back blows. The ARC teaches 5 and 5; 5 back blows followed by 5 upward abdominal thrusts. Mayo Clinic says you can use either.