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Drowning 

Drowning
Chapter:
Drowning
Author(s):

Peter J. Fenner

DOI:
10.1093/med/9780198746690.003.0207
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date: 02 March 2021

Drowning is a major preventable cause of death, most frequently in children and in developing countries. Aspiration (whether of salt or fresh water) is usual in drowning and near-drowning (known as non-fatal, or submersion injury) and leads to cardiac arrest within a few minutes. Death or severe neurological impairment occurs after submersion for more than 5–10 min, but much longer durations may be tolerated in hypothermic conditions. Prognosis cannot reliably be predicted, but cardiovascular status is a better prognostic indicator than neurological presentation. Patients who are neurologically responsive at the scene of immersion, in sinus rhythm and with reactive pupils, have good outcomes. Those who are asystolic on arrival at hospital and remain comatose for more than 3 h have a poor prognosis unless they are hypothermic. Patients with a normal chest radiograph on admission usually survive.

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