Emergency department treatment of the drowning victim

Grant ID: EMLE-162R34-2020-THOM

Project Summary

Drowning has a major global impact, with approximately 300,000 deaths each year. Yet the treatment of drowning victims has received limited investigation. This lack of evidence means that guidelines for the treatment of drowning victims are largely based on case reports or on other conditions such as acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), on the premise that there may be similarities between the two conditions.

We are proposing to create a comprehensive database of information on drowning patients presenting to the emergency departments at the Sunshine Coast Hospital and Health Service. We will utilise a standardised list of data (Utstein-style guidelines for Drowning) to explore the treatment and outcomes for drowning patients over an eight-year period 2015-2022 inclusive. This will allow us to answer questions on the best ways to assist the breathing of drowning patients, if the treatment and outcomes in female drowning differ from males and why (there is some evidence females have better survival outcomes after being admitted to hospital), and to determine if the classification of drowning severity in common use around the world is useful in an Australian population.



- Thom, O., Roberts, K., Devine, S., Leggat, P.A. and Franklin, R.C., 2024. Impact of lifeguard oxygen therapy on the resuscitation of drowning victims: Results from an Utstein Style for Drowning Study. Emergency Medicine Australasia. https://doi.org/10.1111/1742-6723.14454

- Thom, O., Roberts, K., Devine, S., Leggat, P. A., Franklin, R. C., 2023. Feasibility study of the Utstein Style For Drowning to aid data collection on the resuscitation of drowning victims. Resuscitation Plus, 16, 100464.

- Thom, O., Roberts, K., Leggat, P. A., Devine, S., Peden, A. E., Franklin, R. C., 2023. Addressing gaps in our understanding of the drowning patient: a protocol for the retrospective development of an Utstein style database and multicentre collaboration. BMJ open, 13(2), e068380.

- Thom, O., Roberts, K., Leggat, P. A., Devine, S., Peden, A. E., Franklin, R. C., 2022. Cervical spine immobilisation is only required in drowning patients at high risk of axial loading of the spine. Emergency Medicine Australasia. doi.org/10.1111/1742-6723.14036

- Thom, O., Roberts, K., Leggat, P.A., Devine, S., Peden, A.E., Franklin, R.C., 2022. Cervical spine injuries occurring at the beach: epidemiology, mechanism of injury and risk factors. BMC Public Health, 22(1), pp.1-8.

Conference presentation:

- Thom, O., Non-fatal drowning and other aquatic injuries. National Water Safety Summit, Sydney, August 2022.


Amount Awarded


Grant Scheme


Principal Investigator:
Dr Ogilvie Thom

Co Investigators:
Ms Kym Roberts
A/Prof Richard Franklin
A/Prof Sue Devine
Prof Peter Leggat AM ADC
Dr Amy Peden


Collaborating Institutions

CONTACT US +61 7 3112 8668 info@emfoundation.org.au Suite 1A 34 Sherwood Road Toowong, Qld 4066