Airway Obstruction (Foreign Object)

Airway obstruction can lead to respiratory and cardiac arrest if not addressed quickly and effectively. A conscious patient clutching his/her throat is showing the universal sign of choking. Encourage patient to assume a comfortable position and cough forcefully until he/she can breathe normally. If the coughs become week and ineffective notify EMS; place the patient in a supine position; and deliver quick, upward abdominal thrusts until the object is forced out.

Figure 7.
Abdominal thrusts to remove foreign objects

If the patient becomes unresponsive, immediately begin CPR with chest compressions and make sure an AED is readily available. Each time the airway is opened to give ventilations, look for any visible objects in the oropharynx. If an object can be seen, remove it (if possible) using a finger sweep motion (Figure 8). If a foreign object is not visible, a blind finger sweep should not be performed; continue CPR, cycles of 30 compressions and 2 ventilations, until EMS arrives.

Figure 8.
finger sweep motion to remove foreign object