Prevalence of traumatic injuries in drowning and near drowning in children and adolescents

Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2003 Jan;157(1):50-3. doi: 10.1001/archpedi.157.1.50.


Objective: To determine the prevalence of traumatic injuries in children involved in drowning and near-drowning accidents.

Design/methods: Ten-year retrospective medical chart review of patients at an urban tertiary care pediatric facility. Included patients had International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision, Clinical Modification codes for fatal/nonfatal drowning or E codes for fall into water, accidental drowning, and submersion. We recorded demographics, event characteristics, diagnostics, and outcome data. We used the chi(2) or the Fisher exact test to compare patients with and without injuries.

Results: One hundred forty-three patients met inclusion criteria. Of these, 95 (66.4%) were male. Median age was 3.8 years, and 30 (23.4%) of 128 had preexisting conditions. Site of drowning was the pool (70.6%), the bathtub (19.0%), or natural water (10.4%). The prevalence of traumatic injury was 4.9% (95% confidence interval, 0%-28%). The predominant mechanism of injury was diving, and all injuries were to the cervical spine. Patients with injury were more likely to be older (mean age, 13.5 vs 5.1 years; P<.001) and to have a history of diving (85.7% vs 2.2%; P<.001). The presence of injury was not associated with sex, preexisting condition, or site of drowning (P>.05).

Conclusions: The prevalence of traumatic injury in drowning and near drowning is low. We identified only cervical spine injuries, and all but 1 patient had a clear history of diving. Use of specialized trauma evaluations may not be warranted for patients in drowning and near-drowning accidents without a clear history of traumatic mechanism.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Age Distribution
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Diving / injuries*
  • Drowning / epidemiology*
  • Female
  • Glasgow Coma Scale
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Near Drowning / epidemiology*
  • Prevalence
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Sex Distribution
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / classification
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / epidemiology
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / etiology*
  • United States / epidemiology