Patterns of Injuries in Drowning Patients - Do These Patients Need a Trauma Team?


  • Eric S. Hunn, M.D.
  • Stephen D. Helmer, Ph.D.
  • Jared Reyes, Ph.D.
  • James M. Haan, M.D.



drowning, injuries and wounds, trauma


Introduction. Drowning is a major public health hazard worldwide, but associated traumatic injuries are rare. This study examined injuries and interventions performed on this population to assess the need for the trauma team activation.

Methods. A 12-year retrospective review was conducted on all fatal and non-fatal drowning patients who underwent a trauma work-up. Data collection included demographics, injury characteristics, interventions, and outcomes.

Results. Forty-three patients met inclusion criteria. Median patient age was six years (interquartile range 2 - 20) with 27.9% of patients under the age of 2 years. Most patients were white (62.8%) and male (69.8%), with median GCS score of 3 (60.5% had initial GCS = 3 with 25.6% with GCS = 15). Only two patients suffered traumatic injuries. Only two patients required operations, neither of which suffered traumatic injury. Eleven patients suffered anoxic brain injury (25.6%). Overall mortality was 48.8% (n = 21).

Conclusion. Patients who present with drowning and no traumatic mechanism have a very low rate of traumatic injuries. Work-up and treatment would be appropriate for emergency physicians without the need for a trauma activation.






Original Research