Henry Heimlich, life-saving maneuver creator, dies at 96

Heimlich

Heimlich

CINCINNATI — The surgeon who created the life-saving maneuver for choking victims died Saturday in Cincinnati. Dr. Henry Heimlich was 96.

His son, Phil, said he died at Christ Hospital after suffering a heart attack earlier in the week.

“My father was a great man who saved many lives,” said Heimlich, an attorney and former Hamilton County commissioner. “He will be missed not only by his family but by all of humanity.”

Heimlich was director of surgery at Jewish Hospital in Cincinnati in 1974 when he devised the treatment for choking victims that made his name a household word.

Rescuers using the procedure abruptly squeeze a victim’s abdomen, pushing in and above the navel with the fist to create a flow of air from the lungs. That flow of air then can push objects out of the windpipe and prevent suffocation.

Much of Heimlich’s 2014 autobiography focuses on the maneuver, which involves thrusts to the abdomen that apply upward pressure on the diaphragm to create an air flow that forces food or other objects out of the windpipe.

The Cincinnati chest surgeon told The Associated Press in a 2014 interview that thousands of deaths reported annually from choking prompted him in 1972 to seek a solution. During the next two years, he led a team of researchers at Jewish Hospital in Cincinnati. He successfully tested the technique by putting a tube with a balloon at one end down an anesthetized dog’s airway until it choked. He then used the maneuver to force the dog to expel the obstruction.