SOURCE: BMJ, news release, Feb. 10, 2015
WEDNESDAY, Feb. 11, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Prolonged efforts to save young drowning victims doesn't help those whose hearts have stopped and who have a dangerously low body temperature, according to a new study that challenges current guidelines.
Drowning is a leading cause of accidental death in children worldwide, the Dutch researchers noted.
Drowning victims often have low body temperatures, or hypothermia, which is thought to offer some protection by slowing the brain's metabolism, the researchers said.
Currently, recommendations are that if blood circulation is not achieved within 30 minutes, resuscitation should continue until the victim's body temperature reaches 89.6 degrees to 93.2 degrees Fahrenheit.
The study included 160 children who had been drowning victims. None was involved in a traffic or boating accident. Only 44 percent of the children were alive a year later, the study found.
Sixty-one percent of the children received prolonged resuscitation (longer than 30 minutes). These children were significantly more likely to have suffered severe brain damage or die than those who did not require prolonged resuscitation, according to the study.
Of those who received prolonged resuscitation, 89 percent died and 11 percent survived in a vegetative state or with severe brain damage. Of the children who didn't require prolonged resuscitation, 11 percent survived with good outcomes, the researchers found.
The researchers also found that 29 percent of children who drowned in winter had good outcomes, compared with 8 percent of those who drowned in other seasons.
The maximum length of resuscitation associated with good outcomes was 25 minutes, according to the study published in the Feb. 10 issue of the BMJ.
"These findings suggest that there is no therapeutic value of restitution beyond 30 minutes for drowned children with cardiac arrest and hypothermia. Our findings challenge the current recommendation," the researchers wrote.
This was a small study and the results should be "interpreted with caution," experts from Imperial College London and Southampton University Hospital in England, wrote in an accompanying editorial.
They noted that "we still have no clear idea of the absolute limits of survival," and that parents "need the reassurance that every effort has been made to resuscitate their child."
The editorial authors suggested that prevention of these accidents should be a priority.
The American Academy of Pediatrics offers drowning prevention tips.