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Electrical Injuries: A 20-Year Review

Arnoldo, Brett D. MD*; Purdue, Gary F. MD*; Kowalske, Karen MD; Helm, Phala A. MD; Burris, Agnes RN*; Hunt, John L. MD*

doi: 10.1097/01.BCR.0000144536.22284.5C
Original Articles: Clinical Articles

Electrical injuries continue to present problems with devastating complications and long-term socioeconomic impact. The purpose of this study is to review one institution’s experience with electrical injuries. From 1982 to 2002, there were 700 electric injury admissions. A computerized burn registry was used for data collection and analysis. Of these injuries, 263 were high voltage (≥1000 V), 143 were low voltage (<1000 V), 277 were electric arc flash burns, and 17 were lightning injuries. Mortality was highest in the lightning strikes (17.6%) compared with the high voltage (5.3%) and low voltage (2.8%) injuries, and mortality was least in electric arc injuries without passage of current through the patient (1.1%). Complications were most common in the high-voltage group. Mean length of stay was longest in this group (18.9 ± 1.4 days), and the patients in this group also required the most operations (3 ± 0.2). Work-related activity was responsible for the majority of these high-voltage injuries, with the most common occupations being linemen and electricians. These patients tended to be younger men in the prime of their working lives. Electrical injuries continue to make up an important subgroup of patients admitted to burn centers. High-voltage injuries in particular have far reaching social and economic impact largely because of the patient population at greatest risk, that is, younger men at the height of their earning potential. Injury prevention, although appropriate, remains difficult in this group because of occupation-related risk.

From the *Department of Surgery and †Department of Physical Med and Rehabilitation, UT Southwestern Medical Center, Parkland Memorial Hospital, Dallas, Texas.

Address Correspondence to Brett D. Arnoldo, MD, Department of Surgery, UT Southwestern Medical Center 5323 Harry Hines Boulevard, Dallas, Texas 75390–9158.

©2004The American Burn Association