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Systematic review of definitions for drowning incidents.

Resuscitation 2005 June
OBJECTIVES: In preparation for the World Congress on Drowning uniform reporting consensus document of drowning incidents we reviewed systematically the medical literature for the terms and definitions used to describe drowning incidents to assess the uniformity of these terms in the medical literature.

METHODS: The search strategy included a literature search of PubMed, MEDLINE and the Cochrane Database from 1966 to April 2002, as well as a review of reference lists of identified studies and a hand search of relevant textbooks and reference works. Search terms used included drowning, near-drowning, submersion, immersion, suffocation, asphyxiation, water injuries, and aspiration. Any article with drowning as a primary focus and containing a definition of drowning was included. Study designs included experimental studies, observational studies, case control studies, reviews, letters, and editorials.

RESULTS: The search identified approximately 6000 articles. Of these 650 were reviewed and 43 articles addressing the definition of drowning were identified. We found a total of 33 different definitions to describe drowning incidents, 20 for drowning and 13 for near-drowning; along with another 13 related terms. There were at least 20 different outcome measures for drowning incidents reported.

CONCLUSIONS: A review of existing drowning literature demonstrates a lack of a standard definition of drowning and a lack of agreement on measures of outcome. This variability in definitions and outcomes makes it very difficult to assess and analyze studies both individually and as a whole and draw conclusions that will influence practice. These objective findings support the need for the drowning Utstein focus on one definition of drowning and validated measures of functional and neurological outcome.

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