Benjamin Wedro, MD, FACEP, FAAEM
Dr. Ben Wedro practices emergency medicine at Gundersen Clinic, a regional trauma center in La Crosse, Wisconsin. His background includes undergraduate and medical studies at the University of Alberta, a Family Practice internship at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario and residency training in Emergency Medicine at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
In this Article
- What is drowning?
- What happens during drowning?
- What are the complications of drowning?
- Does the type of drowning matter?
- What are the risk factors of drowning?
- What are the symptoms of drowning?
- When should one seek medical care for drowning?
- How is drowning diagnosed?
- How is drowning treated?
- How can drowning be prevented?
- What is the prognosis for a drowning victim?
When should one seek medical care for drowning?
All patients who are victims of drowning, even if they have no symptoms, should seek medical care. Sometimes, subtle information will be revealed that may help prevent future complications when the healthcare provider takes a history or conducts a physical examination.
How is drowning diagnosed?
The initial evaluation of any drowning victim will begin with a history of the events.
- How old is the patient?
- Are there any underlying medical problems?
- Does the patient take any prescription or non-prescription medications? Is
there a history of drug or alcohol use?
- How long was the person unattended prior to being found?
- Was there any potential trauma associated with the drowning (diving/falling
into the water/falling out of a boat)?
- Was there loss of consciousness before, during, or after the drowning
- Has there been any change in behavior?
- Has the person had vomiting or diarrhea?
Physical examination will begin with taking and monitoring the vital signs (the ABCs will be evaluated - airway, breathing, and circulation). Careful examination of the whole body will be required, especially focusing on the neurological examination to assess brain function and examination of the heart and lungs.
If trauma or a diving injury is a consideration, the neck and spine may be immobilized to protect against potential spinal cord damage.
Laboratory and x-ray testing will be utilized depending upon the situation and potential injuries.
Next: How is drowning treated?
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