Physiology of drowning: a review

Joost J. L. M. Bierens, Philippe Lunetta, Mike Tipton, David S. Warner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Drowning physiology relates to two different events: immersion (upper airway above water) and submersion (upper airway under water). Immersion involves integrated cardiorespiratory responses to skin and deep body temperature, including cold shock, physical incapacitation, and hypovolemia, as precursors of collapse and submersion. The physiology of submersion includes fear of drowning, diving response, autonomic conflict, upper airway reflexes, water aspiration and swallowing, emesis, and electrolyte disorders. Submersion outcome is determined by cardiac, pulmonary, and neurological injury. Knowledge of drowning physiology is scarce. Better understanding may identify methods to improve survival, particularly related to hot-water immersion, cold shock, cold-induced physical incapacitation, and fear of drowning.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)147-166
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 17 Feb 2016


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