Introduction: Every year drowning is responsible for 7% of injury-related deaths worldwide, making it the third leading cause of unintentional injury-related death. However, in the United States, little is known regarding the prehospital presentation and management of these patients. The purpose of this study was to describe the drowning population in the United States, with a focus on prehospital time intervals, transport, and cardiac arrest frequency.
Methods: A retrospective cross-sectional study was performed querying records from emergency medical services encounters across the United States over 30 mo (January 2016 to July 2018) using the ESO (Austin, TX) national emergency medical services data registry. Patients with a dispatch or chief complaint of drowning were included. Descriptive statistics, binomial proportion tests, and general linear and logistic regression models were used.
Results: There were 1859 encounters that met the study criteria. Median age was 18 y (n=1855, LQ-UQ 4-46). Pediatric patients accounted for 50% (n=919, 95% CI 47-52). Cardiac arrest occurred in 29% (n=537, 95% CI 27-31), and return of spontaneous circulation occurred in 37% (n=186, 95% CI 32-41). Times were 8±5, 19±17, and 15±10 min (mean±SD) for arrival, on-scene, and transport times, respectively.
Conclusions: This national prehospital drowning study demonstrated that despite an 18% fatality rate in drowning encounters, patients were more likely to have return of spontaneous circulation when compared to the overall prehospital national average, with rates higher in pediatric patients. Future studies with outcomes data should focus on identifying factors that improve cardiopulmonary resuscitation success rates.