Drowning Rule-Out With Novices (DROWN) in Ultrasound


South Atlantic


Grand Strand Medical Center

Document Type


Publication Date



emergency medicine, near drowning, point‐of‐care, ultrasound


Diagnosis | Emergency Medicine | Medical Education


OBJECTIVES: Non-fatal drownings confer significant morbidity and mortality in the United States. Chest radiograph (CXR) is typically used as a screening modality for interstitial edema but lacks sensitivity early after submersion. No study has evaluated lung ultrasound in assessing for pulmonary edema after submersion events and we hypothesized that lung point-of-care (POC) ultrasound can identify interstitial edema in patients presenting after non-fatal drownings.

METHODS: Patients presenting to the emergency department after a submersion event were eligible if a CXR was obtained as part of their care. Emergency medicine residents performed a lung POC ultrasound and provided a "novice" interpretation of "normal" or "abnormal," which was independently reviewed by a blinded expert sonographer. Patients were contacted 2 weeks after presentation to assess for late sequela.

RESULTS: A prospective convenience sample of 59 patients included 21 adults (36%) and 38 children (64%) enrolled over 17 months with a median age of 6. Twenty-four (41%) patients had abnormalities on CXR. Of these, 20 patients had a positive ultrasound per novice interpretation. Compared to CXR, ultrasound had an overall sensitivity of 83% and a specificity of 66% for detecting pulmonary edema in non-fatal drownings. Notably, out of 35 subjects with a negative CXR, there were 12 (34%) cases with a positive lung ultrasound, 10 of which required hospital admission.

CONCLUSION: Lung POC ultrasound has a moderate sensitivity and specificity when performed by novice sonographers to detect pulmonary edema presenting to an ED setting after a non-fatal drowning event.

Publisher or Conference

Journal of the American College of Emergency Physicians Open