Diffuse electrical injury: a study of 89 subjects reporting long-term symptomatology that is remote to the theoretical current pathway

IEEE Trans Biomed Eng. 2004 Aug;51(8):1449-59. doi: 10.1109/TBME.2004.827343.


Historically, tissue damage from electrical contact was thought to arise from resistive heating of tissues along the current pathway. The modern view has accepted that tissue damage can result from cellular rupture (electroporation) induced by the presence of an electric field. There remain electrical injuries that defy explanation by either theory. In rare electrical contacts, diffuse symptomatology arises that is neither proportionate to the electrical contact nor does it occur along the theoretical linear pathway of the current from entry point to exit point. Disproportionate, remote electrical injury is most notable when the contact voltage is low (120 and 240 V). Symptoms occur, absent diagnostic evidence, that defy explanation as organic injury. A Web-based interactive survey was used to locate and query individuals suffering from rarely occurring responses to electrical contact. The results of the study suggest that there is a common symptomatology that is neither linked to voltage nor loss of consciousness at the time of contact.

MeSH terms

  • Accidents / statistics & numerical data*
  • Chronic Disease
  • Electric Injuries / classification
  • Electric Injuries / diagnosis*
  • Electric Injuries / epidemiology*
  • Female
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Internet
  • Male
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Assessment / methods*
  • Risk Factors