The pathophysiology of acute electric injuries

J Trauma. 1976 May;16(5):335-40. doi: 10.1097/00005373-197605000-00001.


Results of the present investigation indicate that an electric burn is simply a thermal injury. The tissue damage associated with an electric injury occurs when electric energy is converted to thermal energy or heat. An electric burn is self limiting: once the current arcs, no further skin and muscle damage is possible because amperage falls to zero. Tissue temperature is the critical factor in determining the magnitude of tissue injury before the current arcs. With the exception of skin resistance, resistances of individual tissues seem not relevant to amount of tissue damage in electric injuries. Living tissue acts as a volume conductor; once skin resistance has been overcome all internal tissue resistance, with the exception of bone, is negligible to current flow. In the present study the volume of tissue traversed by the electric current was more closely related to the extent of tissue injury than the internal resistance of the individual tissues. Muscle injury occurred at the time of initial thermal insult and progressive or de novo muscle necrosis was not seen in this model.

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Animals
  • Burns, Electric / physiopathology
  • Disease Models, Animal*
  • Dogs
  • Electric Injuries / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Muscles / physiopathology*
  • Skin / physiopathology*
  • Temperature