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June 20, 1977

Food Asphyxiation in Hospitalized Patients

JAMA. 1977;237(25):2744-2745. doi:10.1001/jama.1977.03270520054024

During a five-year period, food asphyxiation caused 1.3% of all deaths of patients who came to autopsy at a hospital for chronic diseases. Patients died suddenly, during or shortly after meals. Acute myocardial infarction was mistakenly diagnosed in eight of the 14 patients until autopsy was performed. Sedation, old age, and poor dentition predisposed to aspiration.

Food asphyxiation is a common problem whenever and wherever people eat. To minimize its occurrence in hospitalized patients, sedatives should be prescribed judiciously, and diets ordered appropriately. Physicians should learn the simple methods of extracting inhaled food.

(JAMA 237:2744-2745, 1977)