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Dr. Andrew Rynne

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Can two artery blockage due to drowning cause death?

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Dr. Vaishalee Punj

General & Family Physician

Practicing since :2003

Answered : 1984 Questions

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Posted on Tue, 19 Aug 2014 in Veins and Arteries
Question: A 44yr old tri-athlete with no know cardiac history died while swimming laps he had recently undergone a physical exam for a $5mil insurance policy. He was approved. The event was called a drowning. Lifeguards took 1-2 minutes to discover him face down. The hospital pronounced him doa. The cause of death was drowning. Post XXXXXXX it was discovered 40% blockage in one artery and 95 % in the carotid. Two questions: should the blockage have been discovered beforehand; 2. Would a 1-2 min difference in getting to him have resulted in a different outcome? Thanks for responding.
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Answered by Dr. Vaishalee Punj 1 hour later
Brief Answer:
Depends on the symptoms before death

Detailed Answer:
Hi
Thanks for your query.

Two artery blockage may or may not have caused symptoms. If this heart condition was causing symptoms before death (symptom of breathlessness on exertion), it would have mattered. It is quite possible that he would have gotten breathless while swimming. This could have resulted in more gasping and inhalation of water while drowning.

This breathlessness, if well-treated beforehand by treating the carotid artery blockage, could have saved the life.

Hope it answers the two questions.

Dr Vaishalee
Above answer was peer-reviewed by : Dr. Chakravarthy Mazumdar
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Follow up: Dr. Vaishalee Punj 40 minutes later
Assuming that he was asympomatic before this event, would an immediate rescue followed by CPR, etc. made a difference in the outcome?
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Answered by Dr. Vaishalee Punj 1 hour later
Brief Answer:
Death occurs within minutes of immersion

Detailed Answer:
Hi again

If he was asymptomatic, I would consider him as a normal person.

Time taken for death to occur from drowning is variable. It usually take 2 - 12 min to die after immersion.
Sometimes the death is instantaneous, for example if cardiac arrest happened during immersion. Sometimes the person may go into suspended animation and may be falsely taken as dead. But he may live longer if resuscitated.

We are not sure how long it took for death to happen. If it was instantaneous, rescue would not have helped. If time taken for drowning was a few minutes, then rescue would have helped.

Dr Vaishalee
Above answer was peer-reviewed by : Dr. Chakravarthy Mazumdar
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