Neurologic consequences of electrical burns

J Trauma. 1990 Mar;30(3):254-8. doi: 10.1097/00005373-199003000-00002.


Permanent neurologic damage following major electric injury is a dreaded and often discussed complication. The incidence, severity, and sequelae are not clear from the literature. Therefore we reviewed the charts of 90 consecutive patients admitted to the University of Washington Burn Center between 1980 and 1986 looking at neurologic consequences. Electric injuries accounted for 4% of 2,305 admissions. The mean age was 31 +/- 13 years, total body surface area involved (TBSA), 6 +/- 11%, and length of stay, 13 +/- 20 days. There were 82 males and eight females. There were four deaths, for a mortality rate of 4%. Fourteen patients had 18 amputations. Twenty-two patients sustained low-voltage injury; 50% had immediate neurologic symptoms which resolved in nine of 11 patients. Eleven patients (50%) were asymptomatic. Sixty-four patients sustained high-voltage injury and 33% were asymptomatic. Forty-three patients (67%) had immediate central and/or peripheral neurologic symptoms. Loss of consciousness accounted for the largest fraction of CNS sequelae in the high-voltage group (45%). Twenty-three patients (79%) recovered consciousness before arrival at the hospital. Six patients remained comatose, three died, and three awoke but had neurologic sequelae. Twenty-two patients in the high-voltage group had one or more acute peripheral neuropathies. Sixty-four per cent of these neuropathies resolved or improved. Five patients had transient initial paralysis, but there were no delayed spinal cord symptoms. Eleven patients developed one or more delayed peripheral neuropathies. Half of these delayed neuropathies resolved or improved.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Adult
  • Burns, Electric / complications*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Peripheral Nervous System Diseases / etiology*
  • Peripheral Nervous System Diseases / physiopathology
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Time Factors
  • Unconsciousness / etiology