Performing the Heimlich Maneuver

Written by Amanda R. McDaniel, MS, BSN, RN
Amanda is a BSN/RN with a MS in Physiology and a BA in English. She worked as a medical writer in the pharmaceutical industry for 11 years before pursuing a career in nursing. She now works as a nurse on a NeuroTelemetry unit and continues to write and edit on a freelance basis. Amanda’s LinkedIn

The Heimlich Maneuver, also known as abdominal thrusts, is used to remove an object that is blocking a resident’s airway and preventing air from reaching the lungs. It only takes four to six minutes for brain damage to occur from lack of oxygen, so prompt action is vital.

How to Perform the Heimlich Maneuver

  1. Ask the resident if he can speak.
    • If he can speak and is coughing, do not proceed. Monitor the resident.
    • If he is unable to speak or becomes unable to speak, go to step two.
  2. If the resident is sitting or standing:
    • Move behind him, kneel if necessary (e.g., to help a child).
    • Wrap your arms around the resident’s waist.
    • Make a fist with your thumb toward the resident and place it just above the resident’s navel.
    • Grasp your fist with your other hand.
    • Make forceful, quick, inward and upward thrusts with your fist until the object dislodges, and the resident can breathe.
  3. If the resident is lying down:
    • Turn him onto his back.
    • Straddle him, facing his head.
    • Make a fist with one hand and place it just above the resident’s navel.
    • Grasp your fist with the other hand.
    • Make forceful, quick, inward and upward (toward head) thrusts until the object dislodges, and the resident can breathe.
  4. Notify the nurse and continue to monitor the resident per institution or unit protocol.


Heller, J.L. (2015, April). Abdominal thrusts. MedlinePlus. Retrieved from

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