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  • Writer's picturepaul watts

Hyperbaric Medicine and Near- Drowning


Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) is a medical treatment that involves breathing pure oxygen in a pressurized room or chamber. It is commonly used to treat various medical conditions, including near-drowning incidents. Near-drowning refers to a situation where a person has been submerged in water but survives for a period afterward.

Near-drowning can lead to a lack of oxygen (hypoxia) and can cause injury to different organs, especially the brain. HBOT can be beneficial in the treatment of near-drowning victims for several reasons:

  • Increased Oxygen Delivery: HBOT provides the body with higher levels of oxygen than what can be achieved by breathing pure oxygen at normal atmospheric pressure. This increased oxygen can help compensate for the oxygen deficit that may have occurred during the near-drowning incident.

  • Reduced Inflammation: Near-drowning can trigger an inflammatory response in the body, which may lead to tissue damage. HBOT has anti-inflammatory effects and can help reduce inflammation, potentially minimizing damage to organs.

  • Brain Protection: The brain is particularly vulnerable to oxygen deprivation, and near-drowning incidents can result in brain injury. HBOT may enhance the delivery of oxygen to the brain, which can help limit or repair damage and improve neurological outcomes.

  • Promotion of Healing: HBOT can stimulate the release of growth factors and promote the formation of new blood vessels (angiogenesis). This may contribute to the healing process and tissue repair in various organs affected by near-drowning.

  • Reduction of Swelling: Near-drowning can lead to swelling (edema) in different body tissues, including the brain. The pressurized environment in the hyperbaric chamber may help reduce swelling and improve blood flow, potentially preventing further damage.

  • For every child under age 18 who dies from drowning, another 7 receive emergency department care for nonfatal drowning.1

  • Nearly 40% of drownings treated in emergency departments require hospitalization or transfer for further care (compared with 10% for all unintentional injuries).1

  • Drowning injuries can cause brain damage and other serious outcomes, including long-term disability.3-5 (per CDC.gov)

  • Every year in the United States there are an estimated:

  • 4,000* fatal unintentional drownings—that is an average of 11 drowning deaths per day.

  • 8,000† nonfatal drownings—that is an average of 22 nonfatal drownings per day. (per CDC.gov)

  • It's important to note that the use of HBOT for near-drowning victims may vary based on the severity of the case and individual patient factors. HBOT is typically considered as part of a comprehensive treatment plan, and decisions about its use should be made by healthcare professionals based on the specific circumstances of each case.

As with any medical treatment, the effectiveness of HBOT can depend on various factors, and outcomes may vary from one individual to another. If you or someone you know has experienced a near-drowning incident, it is crucial to seek prompt medical attention to assess the extent of the injuries and determine appropriate treatment options.

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