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Open Access Highly Accessed Review

Neurologic long term outcome after drowning in children

Pertti K Suominen* and Raisa Vähätalo

Author Affiliations

Department of Anaesthesia and Intensive Care, Children’s Hospital, Helsinki University Central Hospital, Stenbäckinkatu 9, FIN-00029 HUS, Helsinki, Finland

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Scandinavian Journal of Trauma, Resuscitation and Emergency Medicine 2012, 20:55  doi:10.1186/1757-7241-20-55

Published: 15 August 2012

Abstract

Drowning is a major source of mortality and morbidity in children worldwide. Neurocognitive outcome of children after drowning incidents cannot be accurately predicted in the early course of treatment. Therefore, aggressive out-of-hospital and in-hospital treatment is emphasized. There are "miracle" cases after long submersion times that have been reported in the medical literature, which mostly concern small children. However, many of the survivors will remain severely neurologically compromised after remarkably shorter submersion times and will consequently be a great burden to their family and society for the rest of their lives. The duration of submersion, the need of advanced life support at the site of the accident, the duration of cardiopulmonary resuscitation, whether spontaneous breathing and circulation are present on arrival at the emergency room are important factors related to survival with mild neurological deficits or intact function in drowned children. Data on long-term outcome are scarce. The used outcome measurement methods and the duration of follow-up have not been optimal in most of the existing studies. Proper neurological and neurophysiological examinations for drowned children are superior to outcome scales based chart reviews. There is evidence that gross neurological examination at the time of discharge from the hospital in young children does not reveal all the possible sequelae related to hypoxic brain injury and thus long-term follow-up of drowned resuscitated children is strongly recommended.

Keywords:
Drowning; Cardiopulmonary resuscitation; Children; Outcomes; Health related quality of life