Submersion injuries are a leading cause of injury death in children in the United States. The clinical course of a submersion patient varies depending on the presence of anoxic brain injury and acute respiratory failure.
We studied changes in clinical findings and chest radiograph findings and determined the sensitivity/specificity of the presenting chest radiograph in predicting clinical improvement within the first 24 h in pediatric submersion cases.
Materials and methods
We conducted a cross-sectional study of pediatric submersion patients through age 18 years treated at a children’s hospital from 2010 to 2013. We reviewed demographics, comorbidities, prehospital/hospital course and chest radiographic findings. Clinical improvement occurred when a child demonstrated normal vital signs and mentation. We compared radiographic findings among children based on clinical improvement up to 24 h post submersion. Using odds ratios, we calculated associations between radiographic findings and clinical improvement. We studied the sensitivity/specificity of the presenting chest radiograph in predicting clinical improvement within 24 h.
One hundred forty-two of 262 (54%) patients had initial chest radiographs; 41% had follow-up radiographs. The odds of an abnormal initial chest radiograph were 4 times higher in children with respiratory distress or abnormal mentation at emergency department (ED) presentation compared to children without these findings (odds ratio [OR]=4.83; 95% confidence interval [CI]=2.1–10.85; P<0.001). Improvement in radiographic findings occurred in 85% of children within 24 h. Children with an abnormal initial chest radiograph were 87% less likely to improve clinically by 24 h (P<0.001). A presenting chest radiograph that was normal or with mild pulmonary edema/atelectasis predicted clinical improvement within 24 h (sensitivity 95%, specificity 57%).
Most chest radiographic findings improve in pediatric submersion patients who recover within the first 24 h. An initial chest radiograph that is normal or with mild pulmonary edema/atelectasis satisfactorily predicts clinical improvement by 24 h post submersion.