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Drowning (cont.)

Drowning Medical Treatment

Care for the drowning patient will depend upon the situation surrounding the event, and how they have responded to pre-hospital care. The initial approach will be to stabilize vital signs by addressing the ABCs (airway, breathing, and circulation) to make certain the patient is breathing, has a good heart beat and adequate blood pressure to circulate blood to the organs of the body.

If the drowning occurred because of an injury, those injuries need to be assessed at the same time the patient is being evaluated for the consequences and complications of drowning (injury to the brain, head, heart, and lungs).

If a medical illness caused the drowning (for example, a seizure or heart attack), then the underlying illness will need assessment and treatment.

Supportive care is often required for the lungs because they can become inflamed due to aspiration (inhalation) of water during the drowning process. Pneumonia and acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) are potential complications.

Scuba diving events may require hyperbaric oxygen therapy should there be a potential risk of decompression illness.

Many drowning victims are awake and stable by the time they arrive in the emergency department. Depending upon the circumstances, these patients may be observed for a period of time and discharged home.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 7/7/2014

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