Restraint asphyxia

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A small number of individuals suffer asphyxia and sudden death when restrained. [1]

This may occur particularly when they are intoxicated especially with cocaine but also alcohol, or after vigorous exertion e.g. a pursuit. Such restraint asphyxia may or may not evince the classical features of asphyxia – cyanosis, congestion petechial haemorrhages.

The increased efforts of the restrained police detainee to breathe may be misinterpreted by police officers as further attempts to escape.

The incidence of restraint asphyxia may be reduced by keeping the time that the detained person is held in a prone position to a minimum, avoiding pressure on his chest or back while prone and getting him to a kneeling, sitting or standing position at the earliest practicable time to allow normal breathing.

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