An interesting animal study examined the techniques recommended in basic choking management algorithms for foreign body airway obstruction (chest and abdominal thrusts). In terms of the pressures generated, lateral chest thrusts were the most effective, although they are not recommended in current guidelines.
The technique described (on intubated pigs) was:
The animals were placed on the floor and on their side. The lower (dependent) side of the chest was braced by the ground and thrust was applied to the upper part of the upper side by two hands side by side with the higher one just below the axilla.
Interestingly – and I didn’t know this (although perhaps should have!) – the Australian Resuscitation Council (ARC) recommended lateral chest thrusts instead of abdominal thrusts for over 20 years.
While we should always exercise extreme caution in extrapolating animal studies to humans, this makes me want to consider lateral thrusts in the first aid (ie. no equipment) situation if other measures are failing.
Lateral versus anterior thoracic thrusts in the generation of airway pressure in anaesthetised pigs
Resuscitation. 2013 Apr;84(4):515-9
Objective Anterior chest thrusts (with the subject sitting or standing and thrusts applied to the lower sternum) are recommended by the Australian Resuscitation Council as part of the sequence for clearing upper airway obstruction by a foreign body. Lateral chest thrusts (with the victim lying on their side) are no longer recommended due to a lack of evidence. We compared anterior, lateral chest and abdominal thrusts in the generation of airway pressures using a suitable animal model.
Methods This was a repeated-measures, cross-over, clinical trial of eight anaesthetised, intubated, adult pigs. For each animal, ten trials of each technique were undertaken with the upper airway obstructed. A chest/abdominal pressure transducer, a pneumotachograph and an intra-oesophageal balloon catheter recorded chest/abdominal thrust, expiratory air flows, airway and intrapleural pressures, respectively.
Results The mean (SD) thrust pressures generated for the anterior, lateral and abdominal techniques were 120.9 (11.0), 135.2 (20.0), and 142.4 (27.3) cmH2O, respectively (p < 0.0001). The mean (SD) peak expiratory airway pressures were 6.5 (3.0), 18.0 (5.5) and 13.8 (6.7) cmH2O, respectively (p < 0.0001). The mean (SD) peak expiratory intrapleural pressures were 5.4 (2.7), 13.5 (6.2) and 10.3 (8.5) cmH2O, respectively (p < 0.0001). At autopsy, no rib, intra-abdominal or intra-thoracic injury was observed.
Conclusion Lateral chest and abdominal thrust techniques generated significantly greater airway and pleural pressures than the anterior thrust technique. We recommend further research to provide additional evidence that may inform management guidelines for clearing foreign body upper airway obstruction.