Impact of age, submersion time and water temperature on outcome in near-drowning

Resuscitation. 2002 Mar;52(3):247-54. doi: 10.1016/s0300-9572(01)00478-6.


Background: Because children have less subcutaneous fat, and a higher surface area to body weight ratio than adults, it has been suggested that children cool more rapidly during submersion, and therefore have a better outcome following near-drowning incidents.

Aim of the study: To study the impact of age, submersion time, water temperature and rectal temperature in the emergency room on outcome in near-drowning.

Material and methods: This retrospective study included all near-drowning victims admitted to the intensive care units of Helsinki University Central Hospital after successful cardiopulmonary resuscitation between 1985 and 1997.

Results: There were 61 near-drowning victims (age range: 0.5-60 years, median 29 years). Males were in the majority (40), and 26 were children (<16 years). The median water temperature was 17 degrees C (range: 0-33 degrees C). The median submersion time for the 43 survivors (70%) was 10 min (range: 1-38 min). Intact survivors and those with mild neurological disability (n=26, 43%) had a median submersion time of 5 min (range: 1-21 min). In non-survivors the median submersion time was 16 min (range: 2-75 min). Submersion time was the only independent predictor of survival in linear regression analysis (P<0.01). Patient age, water temperature and rectal temperature in the emergency room were not significant predictors of survival.

Conclusions: Although submersion time is usually an estimate, it is the best prognostic factor after a near drowning incident. Children did not have a better outcome than adults.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Body Temperature
  • Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Critical Care
  • Emergency Medical Services*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Near Drowning / therapy*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Temperature
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Water


  • Water