Strangulation is squeezing of the neck with enough force to block the flow of blood to the brain and/or the flow air to the lungs. The loss of blood flow deprives the brain cells of vital oxygen. Even short periods of time without oxygen can cause damage to the brain.
Strangulation may be caused by someone’s hands or arm, or an item wrapped around the neck. It may be the result of:
Symptoms will depend on the force that is applied and the length of time it is applied. Some symptoms will be immediate while others may take a few hours or days to appear.
The interference with blood flow can cause:
Damage to the structures of the neck such as hyoid bone, voice box, or windpipe can cause:
Some visible damage may include:
Repeated strangulation can increase the risk of long-term damage and death.
The diagnosis is made based on information provided by the patient or a witness, and a physical exam.
Blood tests and x-rays may be done to look for any damage
Treatment will be based on the severity of injury.
More severe injuries may require medical or surgical support to:
Referral for counselling may be needed
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Nemours Kid's Health
Choking game prevention, children ages 6-19 years. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.health.ny.gov/prevention/injury_prevention/children/fact_sheets/6-19_years/choking_game_prevention_6-19_years.htm. Accessed November 6, 2015.
Household safety. Nemours Kid's Health website. Available at: http://kidshealth.org/parent/firstaid_safe/home/safety_entrap.html#a_Avoiding_Potential_Hazards. Updated August 2013. Accessed November 6, 2015.
Strangulation injury—emergency management. DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T902787/Strangulation-injury-emergency-management. Accessed November 6, 2015.
Strangulation signs and symptoms. Center for Relationship Abuse Awareness website. Available at: http://stoprelationshipabuse.org/pdfs/Strangulation.pdf. Accessed November 6, 2015.
Last reviewed November 2015 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.