Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Notebook

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Notebook

Article excerpt

Near-Drownings Questioned

Babies and young children who nearly drown in bathtub accidents are highly likely to have been victims of abuse and neglect, according to doctors at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, who conducted a 10-year review of such injuries. They recommend that cases of bathtub near-drownings be routinely investigated to determine whether there is a history of abuse.

The Philadelphia team, led by emergency-medicine physician Jane M. Lavelle, reviewed the cases of 21 children treated at Children's between 1982 and 1992 who nearly drowned in the bathtub. The children ranged in age from 4 months to 6 years; 75 percent were under 2 years old and many were transferred to Children's, a specialized facility, from other hospitals. Nearly half of the children died or suffered such severe brain damage that they were in a vegetative state.

In 95 percent of the cases, the event occurred in the child's home. In half the cases, the mother was present and in charge; more than half the mothers were teen-agers.

All children were left unattended in the bathtub for varying periods of time, usually for less than five minutes, sometimes with another young child under the age of 4, according to parents. In some cases, the mother said she was performing other household tasks, such as answering the phone, cooking a meal or doing laundry.

Lavelle's team reported that in two-thirds of the cases there was a significant indicator of abuse or severe neglect, including physical findings such as fractures or bruising.

Drowning is the leading cause of accidental death in children under 5, Lavelle notes.

The study was published in the March issue of the Annals of Emergency Medicine.

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