A new tool for choking victims

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Nevada Daily Mail

A new medical device called the LifeVac joins Dr. Henry Heimlich's namesake Heimlich maneuver in saving victims that are choking.

"It's gotta be easy, it's gotta be inexpensive," said inventor, Arthur Lih.

Lih drew inspiration from a grieving mother who had just lost her son who had choked to death on a piece of food. In his case, the Heimlich did not work. That night, Lih started working on a solution. With input from his sister, Dr. Lisa Lih Brody, and a trip to a local home improvement store, Lih soon had a workable design that evolved into the LifeVac.

"When you're choking, it has to work," Lih said.

Two years later, the LifeVac has recorded its first official rescue, a resident in a nursing home in Dyfed, Wales in the United Kingdom. Lih said the LifeVac worked on the first try, and he found it ironic that the nurse who used the LifeVac shared his daughter's name, Jacquelyn.

"We are very happy to learn that LifeVac has successfully saved a person from choking to death. We never doubted LifeVac would work," Lih said in a June 2016 press release following the news that LifeVac had recorded its first documented rescue. "We now have proof of concept that LifeVac can safely remove an obstruction from a blocked airway on a human being."

"Over 4,000 people choke to death in the US every year, over 100,000 worldwide," Lih said. His goal is to eliminate accidental choking deaths by having a LifeVac in all high-risk places like schools, nursing homes, and restaurants.

LifeVac, at first glance, looks like it should be in a toolbox rather than the medicine cabinet. The design is essentially a CPR facemask coupled to a kitchen sink plunger with a one-way valve. The one-way valve prevents pressure from being applied to the patient's airway pushing the object further in. Only negative pressure is applied to the patient's airway, pulling the object out.

As word spread, an increasing number of agencies and municipalities purchased LifeVac kits. The most notable agency to date is the Sarasota Police Department in Sarasota, Fla.

"We are excited that the Sarasota Police Department has joined the growing list of organizations embracing LifeVac as a viable lifesaving tool," Arthur Lih said in an April 2015 press release.

According to statistics listed on the LifeVac website, the leading cause of death of children in the United States is choking. It is also a leading cause of death in the elderly. People who are alone, or suffer from certain chronic illnesses are especially vulnerable.

An independent study in the American Journal of Emergency Medicine concluded the LifeVac is several times stronger than the force generated by abdominal thrusts or even chest compressions.

LifeVac is not without competition though. A similar device, dubbed the Dechoker, was created in 2009 by Alan Carver of Concord, N.C. Both devices are registered with the FDA and are available to consumers without a prescription.

More information on the LifeVac can be found at lifevac.net and on the Dechoker at www.dechoker.com.

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