Electrical injuries in a pediatric emergency department

Ann Emerg Med. 1995 Nov;26(5):604-8. doi: 10.1016/s0196-0644(95)70012-9.


Study objective: To examine the spectrum of electrical injuries and develop guidelines for management.

Design: Retrospective review of charts compiled during a 6-year period (1988 through 1993).

Setting: Pediatric emergency department.

Participants: Seventy-eight patients seen for electrical injuries.

Results: Fifty-four percent of patients were boys, and the mean age of the patients was 5.3 years. Eighty-two percent sustained burns. We divided patients into those who were involved in major electrical current events (n = 8) (water contact and high voltage) and minor electrical current events (n = 70) (injury sustained while placing an object in an outlet or touching/plugging in a cord or during oral contact with a cord). Of the minor events, all burns (n = 61) involved less than 1% of body surface area. Eighteen patients sustained second-degree burns, and 19 sustained third-degree burns. Of the eight major-event patients, one had abnormal ECG/rhythm strip findings, two had abnormal urinalysis results, and six had abnormal levels of creatine phosphokinase. All eight were admitted. Of the 70 minor-event patients, 2 of 53 had abnormal ECG/rhythm strip findings, 1 of 48 had abnormal urinalysis results, and 2 of 40 had abnormal creatine phosphokinase levels. Thirty-six of the 70 minor-event patients were admitted. Patients involved in major events were more likely to undergo studies (P = .002), to have an abnormal result (P = .000008), and to be hospitalized (P = .008). In minor-event patients, hospitalization was limited to observation and the fitting of oral appliances.

Conclusion: Children involved in electrical events are usually exposed to low-voltage household current resulting in minor injury. Asymptomatic children with minor electrical injuries do not require laboratory evaluation or hospitalization.

MeSH terms

  • Accidents, Home
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Decision Trees
  • Electric Injuries* / epidemiology
  • Electric Injuries* / etiology
  • Electric Injuries* / therapy
  • Emergency Service, Hospital
  • Female
  • Hospitalization
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Injury Severity Score
  • Male
  • Medical Records
  • Ohio / epidemiology
  • Retrospective Studies