Disclaimer: None of the information in this article constitutes medical advice, and is just the opinion of the writer(s). We recommend that patients follow their doctor’s guidance in regard to medical devices.
The Dechoker is a medical device that claims to save lives by preventing choking deaths. It’s a lightweight, handheld device that can be used on yourself or on anyone else over the age of 1 year.
In this article we’ll review the medical research on the Dechoker, and determine whether it’s truly more effective than a basic Heimlich maneuver.
The one medical review published on the efficacy of the Dechoker is strangely not in their website’s Clinical Studies section.
Researchers from the Frontiers in Public Health journal received data from adult care homes in the U.K. about choking incidents where the Dechoker was used. In all 27 incidents where the device was used, the patient survived and the obstruction was successfully removed.
In 26 of the incidents, the Dechoker directly caused the airway clearance, and in the other single incident, the Dechoker indirectly helped airway clearance by helping to remove mucus which allowed the patient to manually cough out the food causing the obstruction.
We can conclude from the research that the Dechoker is effective for saving the lives of choking victims, however this is a very small sample size.
How Does The Dechoker Work?
Choking is caused when a foreign body blocks the airway. This is typically caused by food, but it can be caused by any object large enough to block sufficient air flow.
The Dechoker is part of a class of medical devices called Airway Clearance Devices (ACDs). These are physical devices which use manual suction to clear the airway.
An attached face mask fits the Dechoker around the mouth, and the device is pulled with a handle to create a suction force that can clear the airway. The device is typically used by a health care expert, but the company claims it can also work if used on yourself (which would be a bit more challenging).
The brand published a useful video tutorial with a doctor explaining proper use, which we’d recommend watching for anyone who purchases the device, because it’s not immediately clear from looking at the device how it would work.
Dechoker Vs. Lifevac
Another popular ACD is called the Lifevac, and consumers are often curious which of the two devices is likely to be more effective.
A clinical trial published in the Resuscitation Plus journal in 2021 directly compared the efficacy of the two devices to standard abdominal thrusts which are typically recommended when a patient is choking.
The study had non-medically-trained participants try one of the three methods on a medical manikin which comes with food stuck in its throat. This was a good study design in our opinion, because in most real-world choking scenarios the person first administering aid is not medically trained. If someone is choking at a restaurant, for example, their partner or someone at one of the neighboring tables will likely be the first person to reach them.
Researchers found that the Lifevac was significantly more effective than both the Dechoker and the manual method. The foreign body stuck in the throat was dislodged in 99% of cases where the Lifevac was used, and only 74% of cases where the Dechoker was used.
We can conclude from the available research that the Lifevac is more likely to be effective than the Dechoker.
Dechoker Legal Issues
In May of 2018, a local paper called Queen City News reported that the office of the Dechoker was raided by state investigators for illegal business activities.
The paper reports that the company didn’t have a license to raise investment funding, or even to work in the state, but it did both. Over 80 individual investors were claiming to be defrauded out of over $2 million.
The records obtained in the search warrant highlight some information that raises a huge ethical red flag about the Dechoker company, including that the company told investors that “their stock value would rise 10x ‘very quickly,’” which is in clear violation of Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC) law.
In 2021 the Dechoker received a warning letter from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the U.S., which claimed the device was “adulterated” because the firm had not “validated the processes used in the manufacturing of the devices.”
There are strict rules in place for medical device compliance, and it appears Dechoker was not following them.
Misleading Clinical Studies Page
Dechoker maintains a page on their website titled Clinical Studies where they highlight research relevant to their device. Several of the references on the page are to trials “submitted for publication” years ago, which provides no value to consumers. If a trial was submitted for publication in 2019, why is it not accessible in 2022? Did the trial fail to meet the standard of the medical journal?
Some of the studies linked to on the page don’t appear to be to clinical research at all. One link is to an archived version of a file hosted on Shopify, which resembles a medical review. However when we searched the article title on the largest medical databases called PubMed no results were returned.
Another link is to an archived version of a file hosted on Shopify of a post-market surveillance report. This is a document that manufacturers publish to track their early device results, and is not clinical research.
We find it to be misleading that Dechoker has a clinical research page on their site which doesn’t appear to link out to a single clinical research study published in a medical journal. Linking to archived webpages written by random authors is not clinical research.