The first step in saving a victim from drowning is CPR. Without oxygen, the body shuts down. This process can result in brain damage and death within 20 to 30 seconds. If CPR is done, the victim’s chances of survival increase by ten to fifteen times. However, if the victim cannot receive the necessary oxygen, they will die in as little as 15 seconds. In some cases, there is no way to revive a drowning victim.
Death occurs within 20-30 seconds
The most common cause of death in aquatic environments is drowning. A drowning victim typically holds their breath and is unable to exhale, leading to suffocation in the water. The body’s reaction to this condition is a muscular spasm that closes the airway and seals off the lungs. This process causes hypoxia and cardiac arrest. In most cases, death occurs within twenty or thirty seconds.
The lungs and the heart are the first organs to die in a drowning victim. The lungs are the anatomic center for respiration and are controlled by the central nervous system. Inhaled air is propelled across the alveolar-capillary membrane, which is made of cartilage and smooth muscle. Foreign objects may block the airways and cause larygospasm. The body begins to decompose within 20 minutes.
While the death is often a result of an accident involving water, many drowning deaths do not have clear cause and mechanism. A postmortem examination of the body is necessary for an accurate determination of the manner and cause of death. The forensic pathologist will need to document the environment and the extent of submersion to make a final determination of whether drowning was the cause of death. In addition to the autopsy, postmortem whole body computed tomography (WBCT) is necessary to determine the exact cause of death and identify the deceased’s injuries.
CPR improves chance of survival
If performed correctly, cardiopulmonary resuscitation, or CPR, greatly improves the chances of survival when drowning. A study led by Dr. Joshua Tobin of USC Keck School of Medicine found that drowning victims are more likely to survive when rescuers start chest compressions immediately. Bystanders who perform CPR on a victim before emergency services arrive are more likely to get the drowning victim to the hospital alive and with good brain function.
Despite the success of bystander CPR, the chances of survival after drowning remain low, despite numerous studies indicating that bystander assistance significantly improves these odds. In addition, shockable rhythms are not associated with improved outcomes. Despite these findings, CPR remains an important element of emergency cardiac care. But there is more to it than that. In the long run, CPR may even save a life.
The study surveyed 1,000 people in four academic medical centers, including non-critically ill individuals and their families. Participants answered questions about their knowledge of CPR, personal experiences, and the chances of CPR saving a life. Moreover, it examined how much the study subjects believed their chances of survival after CPR compared to the expected chance of survival after non-cPR. The researchers cautioned that further study is needed before they can determine the exact effect of CPR on the outcomes of drowning victims.
Long-term outcomes of patients undergoing CPR after drowning are unknown, but early identification and treatment can greatly increase the chances of survival. The study also looked at patient characteristics and the level of severity of cardiac arrest. The study also looked at patients’ cerebral performance and whether the patient’s condition changed over the course of treatment. A significant difference between patients who underwent CPR after drowning is related to the severity of the cardiac arrest.
While drowning victims are most likely to survive with CPR, the chances of surviving are lower for people who are unconscious for less than six minutes. Moreover, it is important to note that a victim’s age, gender, and suspected drug or alcohol abuse have been found to negatively influence the outcome. As the standards for resuscitation improve, the percentage of patients who have neurological impairment is increasing.
Victim’s body shuts down due to lack of oxygen
As soon as a drowning victim is insufficiently oxygenated, their body shuts down. The first signs of respiratory arrest are a motionless victim and blue skin. The victim may attempt to struggle for air, but their lips and fingernail beds are blue. They have no energy and cannot keep their mouth open. They will soon cease to make any sounds. If they are not revived immediately, the victim will sink to the bottom of the water.
Brain damage can result from deprivation of oxygen
Near-drowning accidents can have devastating consequences. The body deprives the brain of oxygen, which results in cerebral anoxia. The effects of a TBI can range from severe to temporary, but the longer the victim is in the water, the greater the risk. Medical experts estimate that approximately five minutes of deprivation of oxygen will cause permanent brain damage. Near-drowning victims often experience seizures, learning disabilities, and permanent vegetative states.
In an attempt to revive a drowning victim, medical professionals begin the process by administering CPR. The immediate treatment of CPR will allow doctors to determine the extent of brain damage. Fortunately, most nearly-drowning victims will survive with some degree of brain damage. Although CPR is often a lifesaving measure, only about six percent of almost-drowning victims survive without any further complications.
Regardless of the type of CPR administered, the time between cardiac arrest and the start of treatment is critical. If the victim does not receive CPR within two minutes of arrest, the deprivation of oxygen may result in irreversible brain damage. If, in fact, the victim does survive, CPR is a life-saving measure. While the brain can be revived in time, a large amount of time can pass before adequate circulation is restored.
While the effects of brain damage from anoxia are similar to those of other types of injuries, the timeframe for recovery depends on the level of deprivation and the number of neurons that die. Luckily, the quality of physical therapy can help the brain compensate for damaged regions. Physical therapy is especially crucial if the deprivation of oxygen lasts longer than five minutes. The longer the victim is in the water, the more significant the damage.
While there are many causes of ABI, most are fatal. ABI is a form of traumatic brain damage caused by a lack of oxygen. While a minor ABI often resolves itself quickly with reoxygenation, the longer the victim is in the water, the greater the risk of permanent brain damage. Therefore, the sooner the victim receives medical attention, the more likely they are to recover completely and fully.