Traumatic Injuries and Radiographic Study Utilization Among Children With Drowning Presenting to U.S. Pediatric Hospitals

Samaa Kemal*, Sriram Ramgopal, Michelle L. Macy

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


OBJECTIVE: The role of traumatic injuries in fatal and nonfatal drownings is poorly described. We sought to characterize the incidence of traumatic injuries and diagnostic imaging performed among children who received pediatric hospital care for drowning. METHODS: We conducted a retrospective study of children (≤18 years) with drowning encounters at 45 pediatric hospitals, October 2015 through December 2020. We described the presence of clinically important traumatic injuries to the following body regions: brain, spinal cord, thoracic and intra-abdominal organs, axial skeleton, pelvis, and long bones, and major vessels. We described patient characteristics and radiographic testing. We compared patients with and without traumatic injuries using the Fisher's exact and Wilcoxon signed rank tests. RESULTS: We identified 10,397 children with a drowning encounter. Most (83.4%) were treated in the emergency department and 52.8% were admitted. There were 238 (2.3%) encounters with clinically important traumatic injuries. Intracranial injury was the most common (1.0%) with other traumatic injuries occurring in ≤0.5%. Less than 2% of children had a moderate or severe injury severity score and approximately half of these children had a clinically important traumatic injury. Among children with traumatic injuries, a higher proportion were 10 to 14 or 15 to 18 years old and from ZIP codes with lower median household income. Computerized tomography imaging was performed in the following proportions: brain (11.4%), cervical spine (3.7%), abdomen/pelvis (1.2%), chest (0.5%) and face/orbits (0.2%). CONCLUSIONS: Clinically important traumatic injuries in children with drowning are rare. Further studies are needed to guide the optimal utilization of radiographic studies in this population.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)677-685
Number of pages9
JournalAcademic Pediatrics
Issue number4
StatePublished - May 1 2024


  • drowning
  • epidemiology
  • injury
  • submersion
  • trauma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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