Here’s a look at what a variety of journals have published in relation to using the Heimlich maneuver in drowning rescues.

Journal of Emergency Medicine

Full Citation: Near-drowning: Epidemiology, pathophysiology, and initial treatment. Weinstein MD, Krieger BP. 1996

Summary: The authors conclude that there is no evidence to support Dr. Heimlich’s opinion of the efficacy of the maneuver to expel fluid from the lungs of drowned persons.

Annals of Emergency Medicine

Full Citation: Drowning issues in resuscitation. Quan L, Wentz KR, Gore E, et al.1993

Summary: Quan concludes that EMS caregivers had no difficulty ventilating submersion victims.

Annals of Emergency Medicine

Full Citation: Drowning issues in resuscitation. Quan, L  1993

Summary: Quan recommends against using Heimlich maneuver as the first step in the resuscitation of a drowning victim.

New England Journal of Medicine

Full Citation: Drowning. Modell, JH 1993

Summary: In this article, Modell states that the Heimlich maneuver should be reserved for instances when a patient cannot be ventilated and airway obstruction is suspected.

Postgraduate Medicine

Full Citation: Using the Heimlich maneuver to save near-drowning victims. Heimlich HJ, Patrick EA.1988

Summary: Presents Heimlich’s theory that flooding of the lungs occurs routinely in drowning victims and mouth-to-mouth ventilation is ineffective until the water is removed. The Heimlich maneuver expels aspirated water, vomitus, debris and other foreign matter.

Journal of the American Medical Association

Full Citation: Vomiting as a complication of the Heimlich maneuver. Orlowski, JP 1987

Summary: In this report, Orlowski notes that vomiting after the Heimlich maneuver can cause serious complications and therefore it should be reserved for those cases with documented airway obstruction.


Full Citation: Treatment of near-drowning – a review of 130 cases. Simcock, AD 1986

Summary: This review indicates that many patients had no evidence of aspiration.

Journal of Emergency Medicine

Full Citation: Near-drowning. Neal, JM 1985

Summary: Neal notes that virtually all experts recommend the first step in drowning resuscitation should be to initiate ventilation and circulation. Only Heimlich recommends use of the maneuver.

Annals of Emergency Medicine

Full Citation: Subdiaphragmatic pressure to expel water from the lungs of drowning persons. Heimlich, HJ 1981

Summary: A general description and rationale for performing the maneuver are given.