Recovery position

From Academic Kids

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Recovery position. The mouth is downward so that the patient can throw up or bleed cleanly; the chin is well up to keep the epiglottis opened. Arms and legs are locked as to stabilise the position of the patient. Note that the female patient is safely on her left side (see "precautions").

The recovery position is a first aid technique recommended for assisting people who are unconscious, or nearly so, but are still breathing. It is frequently taught as part of classes in CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation).



One of the aims of the recovery position is turning the unconscious person on their side so that if the person vomits, the person will throw up properly. When an unconscious person is lying flat on their back, he or she is at risk of having the stomach contents come up the esophagus and fall back into the lungs and subsequently suffocate.

This is a common risk with unconsciousness caused by excessive alcohol consumption, and is one of the reasons that many people die from drinking too much alcohol, since it by itself is rarely poisonous enough to kill someone on its own. However, if someone passes out, lies flat and then begins to vomit, the vomit often falls back into the lungs rather than exiting the mouth. If the volume of stomach contents is enough, the victim in such a circumstance will actually drown.

If the volume is less, the stomach acid will attack the inner lining of the lungs and the victim will suffer a condition known as aspiration pneumonia.


  • Pregnant women : always put an unconscious pregnant woman in recovery position on her left side . This prevents compression of the Inferior vena cava by the uterus, which could be fatal for both the mother and the child.
  • Do not put a conscious patient who has fallen on his back into recovery position if he or she is not choking. This does no good and might worsen possible injuries to the spine.
  • If there is conflict between keeping the integrity of the spine and putting an unconscious patient in recovery position, the recovery position has priority. Better to have a living patient with a severed spine than a dead one with an intact spine.
Should the need arise to put a patient with suspected spinal injuries in recovery positon, it is possible to minimise the risk by gathering at least three people who will position themselves all along the patient, crossing their hands to better feel what their neighbour is doing. The leader will secure the head and direct the operation.
  • It is possible to compress bloody injuries by putting the patient in recovery position on the bleeding side. A bleeding pregnant woman must be put on her left side no matter what.

Modus Operandi

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Three people maneuvering the patient. The leader secures the head and directs the operation by yelling "Ready to roll? Roll !". The strongest person is at the torso; the third person controls the lower part of the body to maintain spinal alignment.
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Alternative of the maneuver. Note how the hands of the two men are crossed to better synchronise.

To put someone in the recovery position, first:

  • put yourself in a position where you are pulling the person toward you. Your own body can serve as a brake if the person's weight is more than you can control as you start to bring them up.
  • raise the arm closest to you so that it will not serve as a block as you try to bring the person toward you.
  • cross the furthest ankle over the closest ankle before you draw the person toward you. This will allow the body weight to begin coming in your direction, to make it easier to turn the person over.
  • support the waist and back of the neck as you pull the person over.
  • when you have the person on their side, the knee of the ankle you crossed should fall naturally into place as a kind of tripod to hold the person up on their side
  • use the elbow of the furthest arm to create a second tripod.
  • different people wind up in more or less appropriate positions when you do this. Be sure the chin is up and the mouth is clear and the person is able to breathe.

Note that if the person is so unconscious that the recovery position is necessary, it is also usually necessary that an ambulance or other medical personnel be called to the scene.

External links

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Recovery position exercise

It is also a risk with any condition in which a person becomes unconscious.

fr:Position latÚrale de sÚcuritÚ


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