6-Year-Old Male Drowning Complicated by Cardiac Arrest and Ensuing Metabolic and Respiratory Acidosis: Should Presence of Pulses Lead Clinicians to Pursue Prolonged Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation?



      Drowning is one of the leading causes of death in the pediatric population. Patients arriving to the emergency department (ED) with submersion injuries are often asymptomatic and well-appearing, but can sometimes present critically ill and require prolonged resuscitation. The question of how long to continue resuscitation of a pediatric patient with a submersion injury is a difficult question to answer.

      Case Report

      We present a case of 6-year-old boy was found by his friends submerged in sea water for 10–15 min. The patient was rescued by lifeguards and evaluated by emergency medical personnel, who found him breathing spontaneously but unresponsive. En route to hospital, the patient became apneic, cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) was started, and the patient was intubated. The patient arrived to the ED in cardiopulmonary arrest, CPR was continued and epinephrine was administered. Return of spontaneous circulation was achieved after 42 min in the ED. Initial laboratory test results showed severe acidosis and chest x-ray study showed diffuse interstitial edema. Ventilator settings were adjusted in accordance with lung protective ventilation strategies and the acidosis began to improve. Over the next several days, the patient was weaned to noninvasive ventilation modalities and eventually made a complete neurologic recovery and continued to be a straight-A student.
      Why Should an Emergency Physician Be Aware of This?We make the case that, in select drowning patients, duration of CPR longer than 30 min can potentially result in favorable neurologic outcomes. Prolonged CPR should be especially strongly considered in patients with a pulse at any point during evaluation. With the combination of prolonged CPR and judicious use of lung protective mechanical ventilation strategies, we were able to successfully treat the patient in our case.


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