Bystander basic life support: an important link in the chain of survival for children suffering a drowning or near-drowning episode

Jeanette Marchant, Nicholas G Cheng, Lawrence T Lam, Fiona E Fahy, S V Soundappan, Danny T Cass and Gary J Browne
Med J Aust 2008; 188 (8): . || doi: 10.5694/j.1326-5377.2008.tb01725.x
Published online: 21 April 2008

Eight children suffered drowning or near-drowning in Sydney pools over an 11-day period in January 2007. Four received basic life support (BLS) within 5 minutes of immersion and survived with good functional neurological outcomes. The other four were not discovered for ≥ 5 minutes and all died. This cluster serves as a reminder that timely effective bystander BLS is crucial to survival and good clinical outcomes in near-drowning episodes.

During an 11-day period in January 2007, eight children presented to several emergency departments in the Sydney metropolitan region after a drowning or near-drowning event. While these incidents are known to be more common in summer, it is relatively uncommon to have such a cluster of cases occurring within a short period of time.

  • 1 Department of Emergency Medicine, The Children’s Hospital at Westmead, Sydney, NSW.
  • 2 Centre for Trauma Care, Prevention, Education, and Research, The Children’s Hospital at Westmead, Sydney, NSW.
  • 3 University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW.


Competing interests:

None identified.

  • 1. Hazinski MF, Nadkarni VM, Hickey RW, et al. Major changes in the 2005 AHA guidelines for CPR and ECC: reaching the tipping point for change. Circulation 2005; 112 (24 Suppl): IV206-IV211.
  • 2. Ross FI, Elliott EJ, Lam LT, Cass DT. Children under 5 years presenting to paediatricians with near-drowning. J Paediatr Child Health 2003; 39: 446-450.
  • 3. Cass DT, Ross F, Lam LT. Childhood drowning in New South Wales 1990–1995: a population-based study. Med J Aust 1996; 165: 610-612.
  • 4. Levin DL, Morriss FC, Toro LO, et al. Drowning and near-drowning. Pediatr Clin North Am 1993; 40: 321-336.
  • 5. Scott I. Drowning prevention and knowledge transfer [editorial]. Inj Prev 2007; 13: 218-219.
  • 6. van Weerdenburg K, Mitchell R, Wallner F. Backyard swimming pool safety inspections: a comparison of management approaches and compliance levels in three local government areas in NSW. Health Promot J Austr 2006; 17: 37-42.
  • 7. Australian Resuscitation Council. Basic life support flow chart. Melbourne: ARC, 2006. (accessed Jan 2008).
  • 8. Tibballs J. Paediatric cardiopulmonary resuscitation: recent changes to guidelines. J Paediatr Child Health 2008; 44: 67-69.
  • 9. Larsen P, Pearson J, Galletly D. Knowledge and attitudes towards cardiopulmonary resuscitation in the community. N Z Med J 2004; 117: U870.


remove_circle_outline Delete Author
add_circle_outline Add Author

Do you have any competing interests to declare? *

I/we agree to assign copyright to the Medical Journal of Australia and agree to the Conditions of publication *
I/we agree to the Terms of use of the Medical Journal of Australia *
Email me when people comment on this article

Online responses are no longer available. Please refer to our instructions for authors page for more information.