A reappraisal of childhood drowning in a pediatric emergency department

Am J Emerg Med. 2021 Mar;41:90-95. doi: 10.1016/j.ajem.2020.12.059. Epub 2020 Dec 26.


Background: In the present study, we aimed to investigate the demographic and clinical features, laboratory and radiologic characteristics, management, and outcomes of pediatric drowning patients in order to identify predictors of hospital admission, and to evaluate the need for respiratory support, and prognosis.

Methods: In this retrospective chart review, children aged 0 to 18 years who presented to the pediatric emergency department due to drowning between July 2009 and September 2019 were included. Demographics, initial vital signs, clinical findings, laboratory and radiologic results, and the need for respiratory support or cardiopulmonary resuscitation in the emergency department were recorded. Subjects were divided into 6 groups using the Szpilman classification system.

Results: A total of 89 patients were enrolled. Among the children who were admitted to the hospital, initial Szpilman score, crepitations on lung auscultation, and pathologic chest X-ray (CXR) findings were higher and Glasgow Coma Score and oxygen saturation (SpO 2) levels were lower than those of children who were discharged from the emergency department. A Szpilman score of ≥4, a lactate level of >2 mmol/L, and pathologic CXR findings were identified as predictors of hospital admission. Of the 89 patients, 22 (24.7%) underwent non-invasive ventilation (NIV) treatment and were classified as grade 3 or 4 according to the Szpilman score. Length of stay in the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) and in the hospital was lower in patients who underwent NIV. As the Szpilman score increased as of grade 3, a positive correlation was observed with lactate levels (p <0.001, r: 0.552) and the total length of stay in the hospital (p: 0.001, r : 0.491), both of which gradually increased.

Conclusion: The Szpilman score was associated with the duration of hospital stay and the degree of hypoxia, so it could help the physician make rapid decisions on ventilation strategy. Application of NIV in the emergency department shortened the length of stay in the PICU and in the hospital, suggesting that it can be used more often in pediatric emergency settings.

Keywords: Drowning; Szpilman score; cChildren.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Emergency Service, Hospital
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Near Drowning / diagnosis*
  • Near Drowning / therapy*
  • Retrospective Studies