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Recovery (coma) position

Last reviewed dd mmm yyyy. Last edited dd mmm yyyy

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recovery position

Several variations of the recovery position have been described each with its own advantages. The position should be stable, near a true lateral position with the head dependent, and with no pressure on the chest to impair breathing.

The RC (UK) recommends the following sequence of actions to place a victim in the recovery position:

  • For adults and children with a decreased level of responsiveness due to medical illness or non-physical trauma, who do not meet the criteria for the initiation of rescue breathing or chest compressions (CPR), RCUK recommends they be placed into a lateral, side-lying recovery position. Overall, there is little evidence to suggest an optimal recovery position, but RCUK recommends the following sequence of actions:

    • Kneel beside the person and make sure that both legs are straight.

    • Place the arm nearest to you out at right angles to the body with the hand palm uppermost.

    • Bring the far arm across the chest, and hold the back of the hand against the person’s cheek nearest to you.

    • With your other hand, grasp the far leg just above the knee and pull it up, keeping the foot on the ground.

    • Keeping the hand pressed against the cheek, pull on the far leg to roll the person towards you onto their side.

    • Adjust the upper leg so that both the hip and knee are bent at right angles.

    • Tilt the head back to make sure the airway remains open.

    • Adjust the hand under the cheek if necessary, to keep the head tilted and facing downwards to allow liquid material to drain from the mouth.

    • Check regularly for normal breathing.

    • Only leave the person unattended if absolutely necessary, for example to attend to other people.

  • It is important to stress the importance of maintaining a close check on all unresponsive individuals until the EMS (emergency services) arrives to ensure that their breathing remains normal. In certain situations, such as resuscitation-related agonal respirations or trauma, it may not be appropriate to move the individual into a recovery position.


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