Henry Heimlich, inventor of the Heimlich manoeuvre, dies aged 96

Henry Heimlich
Henry Heimlich (Getty)

The inventor of the Heimlich manoeuvre has died - but it wasn't from choking.

Henry Heimlich, 96, died of a heart attack earlier this week, according to his son.

Dr Heimlich was a surgeon who created the life-saving manoeuvre for choking victims in 1974 whilst he was the director of surgery at the Jewish Hospital in Cincinnati. 

The procedure involves abruptly squeezing the victim's abdomen, while pushing above the navel with a fist, so as to create a flow of air from the lungs that can dislodge whatever is blocking the windpipe.

It is a widely taught first-aid procedure, often taught to restaurant workers for cases of people choking on their food. 

Dr Heimlich had only used the technique himself on a few occasions, most recently at his retirement home in May of this year where he saved the life of a resident.

In his 2014 autobiography, Dr Heimlich says he devised the manoeuvre after hearing reports of thousands of deaths from choking in the early 1970s.

It took him two years, alongside a team of researchers, to successfully test the technique, which was done by putting a tube with a balloon at one end down an anesthetised dog's airway until the animal choked. 

Dr Heimlich is survived by his four children.