The long-term consequences of lightning injuries

Burns. 2001 Dec;27(8):829-33. doi: 10.1016/s0305-4179(01)00029-8.


The risk of being struck by lightning is extremely low. Although dying instantly through lightning-induced cardiac arrest is a well-documented cause of death, the majority of cases reported in the literature describe infrequently occurring and enormously disparate sequelae of this injury. A total number of 12 patients were treated in our burn intensive care unit following a lightning accident within a period of 12 years. We have analysed the incidence of cardiac, muscular and sensory disturbances, keraunographic skin markings and significant laboratory results, as well as episodes of audiovisual dysfunction and amnesia at the time of the initial admission. In order to determine possible long-term complications, ten of these 12 patients were evaluated at an average time of 6.7 years following the injury (range, 1 month-12.3 years). Considering specific findings during their hospital stay (average length, 1.58+/-0.23 days), patients were assessed for residual neurologic, ocular, oto-vestibular or psychological deficits. The outcome showed that none of the patients suffered from any deficits or long-term problems that could be related to the original lightning injury. Based on these findings and a literature review, we believe that the overall outcome of lightning injuries is more favourable than generally reported.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Burns, Electric / complications*
  • Burns, Electric / diagnosis*
  • Burns, Electric / mortality
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Injury Severity Score
  • Lightning Injuries / complications*
  • Lightning Injuries / diagnosis*
  • Lightning Injuries / mortality
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nervous System Diseases / diagnosis
  • Nervous System Diseases / etiology*
  • Nervous System Diseases / therapy
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors
  • Survival Rate