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Case Reports
. 2003 May;50(5):541-4.
doi: 10.1097/01.SAP.0000037278.19391.D2.

Ball Lightning Burn

Case Reports

Ball Lightning Burn

Gennaro Selvaggi et al. Ann Plast Surg. .


Ball lightning is a rare physical phenomenon, which is not yet completely explained. It is similar to lightning but with different, peculiar characteristics. It can be considered a mix of fire and electricity, concentrated in a fireball with a diameter of 20-cm that most commonly appears suddenly, even in indoor conditions, during a thunderstorm. It moves quickly for several meters, can change direction, and ultimately disappears. During a great storm, a 28-year-old man and his 5-year-old daughter sustained burn wounds after ball lightning came from the outdoors through a chimney. These two patients demonstrated signs of fire and electrical injuries. The father, who lost consciousness, sustained superficial second-degree burn wounds bilaterally on the zygomatic area and deep second-degree burn wounds on his right hand (total body surface area, 4%). His daughter demonstrated superficial second-degree burn wounds on the left part of the face and deep second-degree and third-degree burn wounds (total body surface area, 30%) on the left neck, both upper arms, and the back. In this article, the authors report the first two cases of burn injuries resulting from ball lightning contact indoors. The literature on this rare phenomenon is reviewed to elucidate the nature of ball lightning. Emphasis is placed on the nature of injuries after ball lightning contact, the therapy used, and the long-term complications.

Comment in

  • Re: ball lightning injuries.
    Cherington M, Yarnell PR. Cherington M, et al. Ann Plast Surg. 2003 Nov;51(5):525; author reply 525-6. doi: 10.1097/ Ann Plast Surg. 2003. PMID: 14595193 No abstract available.

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