Spinal Cord Injury: Assisted Cough

Overview

People who've had an SCI may not have a strong cough. A strong cough is important to help clear the lungs of mucus. This can help prevent lung problems such as pneumonia. If the person you're caring for has a weak cough or a lot of mucus, you may need to do an assisted cough.

An abdominal thrust (or Heimlich-type) assist is done while the person is sitting up in a bed or chair. If they're in a wheelchair, be sure to set the brakes and use the seat belt. Wait 30 minutes after a meal before you do an assisted cough.

Here's how to do an abdominal thrust assist.

  1. Place the heel of one hand on the person's belly just above their navel. Place your other hand on top of the first hand and interlock your fingers, keeping your elbows straight.
  2. Have the person take a deep breath and hold it.
  3. Tell the person to cough.
  4. When they cough, give one quick, firm push up and in, under the rib cage.

    It may take practice to coordinate the cough with the motion.

Talk to the person's doctor before trying this. Some people shouldn't try an assisted cough. This may include those who:

  • Are in pain.
  • Have a chest or back injury, such as an unstable spinal injury or a broken rib.
  • Had recent surgery.
  • Have osteoporosis.
  • Are pregnant.

Related Information

    Credits

    Current as of: December 13, 2021

    Author: Healthwise Staff
    Medical Review:
    Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
    Martin J. Gabica MD - Family Medicine
    Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
    Nancy Greenwald MD - Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation

    Disclaimer: The information contained in this website, and its associated websites, is provided as a benefit to the local community, and the Internet community in general; it does not constitute medical advice. We try to provide quality information, but we make no claims, promises or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of the information contained in or linked to this website and its associated sites. As medical advice must be tailored to the specific circumstances of each patient and healthcare is constantly changing, nothing provided herein should be used as a substitute for the advice of a competent physician. Furthermore, in providing this service, Adventist HealthCare does not condone or support all of the content covered in this site. As an Adventist health care organization, Adventist HealthCare acts in accordance with the ethical and religious directives for Adventist health care services.

    Find a Doctor

    Find an Adventist HealthCare affiliated doctor by calling our FREE physician referral service at 800-642-0101 or by searching our online physician directory.

    View Doctors

    Set Your Location

    Setting your location helps us to show you nearby providers and locations based on your healthcare needs.