Patient Case: Survived after 20 Minutes Underwater

Shared by a German Doctor

Recently, a German doctor posted this case on Sermo. Generally, when a patient struggles and is submerged underwater, death will take 3-4 minutes. However, this Sermo physician shares an amazing story of his patient surviving 20 minutes:

On a hot summer day, a young man bathed in the cool water (19 ° C) of a lake near Berlin, when he suddenly dropped under water about 30 meters from the shore. Passers-by immediately alerted the rescue service and divers from the fire brigade were deployed. After about 20 minutes under water, the man was recovered from a depth of 8 meters. Due to an asystole, the rescue doctor performed a cardiopulmonary resuscitation – after 10 minutes his circulation was recovered. 

The patient was placed in a nearby clinic under intubation and ventilation with a core body temperature of 32 ° C. In a whole-body tomography, there were pronounced pulmonary edema, aspirated foreign bodies in both lungs, and a fluid-filled gastrointestinal tract. To further complicate things, he also had disseminated intravascular coagulation disorder (DIC). Despite the invasive ventilation, oxygenation and ventilation deteriorated massively.

 Since the patient could not be transported, the treating physicians contacted our ECMO team. The ECMO team arrived four hours after the accident per helicopter. Venovenous extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) was implanted. This was the ultimate treatment for the treating physicians despite the severe hemorrhagic diathesis. Meanwhile, there was a severe pulmonary edema and capillary leak syndrome.

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