High-voltage electrical injuries are a devastating form of trauma often treated in burn centers. Examining superficial wounds alone may lead to an inaccurate assessment of local, regional, and systemic severity of injury. In this work, the neurovasculature at sites regionally distinct from the contact wound were assessed for cellular pathology. Nine male Sprague–Dawley rats subjected to 1000 V direct-current shocks were separated into three groups: high-shock (>10-second contact), low-shock (<4-second contact), and control. Injury video was captured with a forward-looking infrared camera, and a thermal excitation analysis was performed. The neurovascular bundles from the iliofemoral region to the distal posterior tibial region were dissected from the hind limbs of the shocked animals and stained by immunohistochemistry for antibodies specific to apoptosis (APO) 1, caspase-3, activating transcription factor 3, high-mobility group box-1, granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor and interleukin-6. Real-time reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction was used to quantify differential transcript levels of superoxide dismutases 1, 2, and 3 and heat-shock protein 70 from peripheral blood mononuclear cells and liver tissue. Finally, a protein array was used to identify key inflammatory cytokines in blood plasma. Significant dose-dependent trends were identified in apoptotic markers as well as inflammatory markers in both arterial and nerve tissues. Although arterial tissue exhibited a gradual decline in these markers proximally from the wound site, nerve tissue maintained a constant level at every location. Transcript analysis revealed an up-regulation of extracellular superoxide dismutase, and down-regulation of heat-shock protein 70, whereas plasma inflammatory cytokine levels indicated no significant changes. Thermal excitation analysis revealed a linear temperature increase, with a dose-dependent thermal maximum. In this study the authors have shown that neurovascular APO and inflammation are present at locations extremely proximal to electrical injury contact sites and this appears to be dose-dependent. Nerve tissue APO and inflammation may extend farther proximally than the iliofemoral region, and multiple proapoptotic mechanisms may be activated. No systemic inflammatory response was indicated in this study.
From the Department of Surgery, The Burn Center, MedStar Washington Hospital Center, MedStar Health Research Institute, District of Columbia.
Funding for this work was generously provided by PEPCO. Holdings, Inc., and by the D.C. Firefighters Burn Foundation.
Address correspondence to Jeffrey W. Shupp, MD, Department of Surgery, The Burn Center, 110 Irving Street, NW, Suite 3B-55, Washington, DC 20010.