How to Perform a Head-tilt Chin-lift

An unconscious patient is at risk of blocking their airway and suffocating. The main reason for this occurring is due to the tongue. An unconscious patient loses all their muscular tone, and this includes the tongue! The tongue can fall back and block the airway, as shown in the diagram below.

This situation is sometimes called (incorrectly) “swallowing your own tongue”. As you can see in the diagram, the tongue isn’t actually swallowed. Instead, the tongue stops air from reaching the windpipe and lungs.

This situation is an emergency – without a supply of oxygen reaching the lungs, the patient will suffocate in a matter of minutes.

A head-tilt, chin-lift maneuver can be used to move the tongue and open the airway.

How to Perform a Head-tilt Chin-lift

  1. Kneel next to the patient’s head
  2. Place one hand on the patient’s forehead and tilt the head gently backward
  3. Place two fingers under the bony part of their chin and lift the chin vertically upwards
  4. Take care not to place any pressure on the soft part of the neck as this could obstruct the airway

Once the airway is opened, you can check for normal breathing. The recovery position (or safe airway position) involves the patient being rolled onto their side in order to maintain an open airway.

John Furst

JOHN FURST is an experienced emergency medical technician and qualified first aid and CPR instructor. John is passionate about first aid and believes everyone should have the skills and confidence to take action in an emergency situation.

You may also like...

First aid links

Leave a Reply