Suction Therapy Eliminates Collateral Damage of Aggressive Methods of Yesterday
Choking is a deadly event and is a leading cause of accidental death in the United States and Europe and commands attention. As the fourth-leading cause of unintentional death in the United States, it is a severe issue for people of all ages, not just in seniors over 65, where the incidence of choking-related deaths is the highest. It is important to note that one child dies every five days from choking and causes more than 100K visits to the emergency room yearly. Choking deaths in the United States have steadily risen since 1945 despite the education and advocacy efforts to address choking.
Airway obstruction due to food is the most common cause of choking in the elderly, and problems are often compounded due to dentures and difficulty swallowing. The leading causes of choking emergencies in children are toys, coins, and household items. In a recent clinical study, 78 forensic autopsies were conducted to examine the specifics of how choking caused the fatality. It was determined that upper airway foreign body obstructions (also called café coronary) could not bypass the narrowing hypopharynx. The obstruction was often lodged in the arytenoid cartilages (which form part of the larynx). It was also determined that time to therapy was critical, especially during “penetration syndrome” when a sudden onset of choking and intractable cough with or without vomiting occurs. Hypoxia (lack of oxygen) of only four to six minutes duration may result in irreversible brain damage, according to the report.
Dr. Heimlich, I Presume
Treatments for choking has been around for more than 150 years. In the early days, choking was addressed with back blows to displace the swallowed foreign object. In 1975, Dr. Henry Heimlich published a paper in the Journal of the American Medical Association titled, “A Life-Saving Maneuver to Prevent Food-Choking.” This was the birth of the now famous Heimlich Maneuver. Dr. Heimlich invented the maneuver after noticing people dying in restaurants, not from heart attacks but airway obstructions, as revealed in autopsies. In time, the Heimlich Maneuver became the preferred treatment and replaced back blows, further characterized as abdominal thrusts. It is noteworthy to add that there has been reported collateral damage due to choking treatments, especially from aggressive compressions and violent back blows. However, injuries and trauma caused by choking treatments have been deemed largely irrelevant, given that the absence of treatment would cause death.
It is well documented that choking affects the elderly (over 65) at a higher rate than any other age group. More specifically, elderly people with dementia, Parkinson’s disease, and pneumonitis have a higher risk within this sub-group. The choking incidence in people with life-threatening obesity is also in the higher tier due to poor oral and motor conditions, poor gag reflexes, and low muscle tone. When combined with an excessive desire for food, decreased chewing, and gluttonous eating habits, the risk of choking increases exponentially.
Suction Offers Benefits to Choking Victims
Physicians and researchers have looked for alternative methods to dislodge an item from a person’s airways in the ever-changing landscape of medical innovation. In hospital rooms and emergency vehicles, suction catheters and systems are predominantly used in place of other methods. Initially, these suction catheters were used to free the airway from mucous or fluid build-up in chronically ill patients. It was discovered very useful in emergencies, and soon reports emerged from healthcare professionals on the suction devices’ benefits.
The DeChoker Invented to Replace Tracheotomy
These reports lead to the idea of using the same suction method but in a portable device that could be used outside of the hospital room configuration which led to Dr. Alan Carver’s invention of the DeChoker device. While attending Sea School to earn his 200-Ton Captain’s license, Dr. Carver was instructed to perform a tracheotomy if the Heimlich Maneuver and other methods failed to treat a choking victim while out at sea. Thinking there was a better way to remove an obstruction from the airways without poking a hole in the victim’s throat, Dr. Carver developed the DeChoker device. In 2015, Dr. Carver’s DeChoker device gained FDA medical device registration. The company he created started working directly with facilities where choking is most common, including restaurants, assisted living facilities, emergency services, schools, and daycare centers.
The DeChoker device is an anti-choking system that generates enough suction to create a vacuum pressure with superior force to previous methods. A full study on the DeChoker device was conducted and was determined that, although the Heimlich Maneuver has saved countless lives in the last decades, anti-choking devices can have the same effect without the collateral damage, and the use of a simple suction device can alleviate injuries. It is further noted that suction anti-choking devices are much more effective on obese, pregnant, or extremely frail patients. This group of patients may not benefit from receiving forceful, aggressive treatments such as back blows or the Heimlich maneuver.