BET 1: cervical spine immobilisation in the management of drowning victims

Emerg Med J. 2019 Dec;36(12):766-767. doi: 10.1136/emermed-2019-209210.2.


A short cut review was carried out to establish whether patients presenting to the emergency department after a near drowning should have cervical spine immobilisation. A search of the literature found only three studies directly relevant to the question. The author, date and country of publication, patient group studied, study type, relevant outcomes, results and study weaknesses of these papers are tabulated. The clinical bottom line is that cervical spine injuries are rare in drowning and near drowning unless there is a history of diving or a fall or signs of trauma. Cervical spine immobilisation should be reserved for cases where there is a reasonable suspicion of a spinal injury.

Keywords: emergency care systems.

MeSH terms

  • Cervical Vertebrae / injuries*
  • Diving / adverse effects
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / standards
  • Evidence-Based Emergency Medicine / instrumentation
  • Evidence-Based Emergency Medicine / methods
  • Evidence-Based Emergency Medicine / standards*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Near Drowning / complications*
  • Patient Selection
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Protective Devices
  • Restraint, Physical / instrumentation
  • Restraint, Physical / methods
  • Restraint, Physical / standards*
  • Spinal Injuries / diagnosis
  • Spinal Injuries / etiology
  • Spinal Injuries / prevention & control*
  • Young Adult