Electrical injuries--morbidity, outcome and treatment rationale

Burns. 1995 Nov;21(7):530-5. doi: 10.1016/0305-4179(95)00037-c.


Electrical injuries are unique with respect to low mortality rates, but very high rates of short- and long-term morbidity, and overall outcome. Controversy still exists regarding the advantages of one-stage debridement versus early serial debridement of necrotic tissue. The purpose of this study was a retrospective evaluation of treatment, morbidity and outcome in a group of patients with electrical injuries. Over a 13-year period 1992 patients were admitted with acute burns to our burn centre. Electrical injuries occurred in 129 (6.5 per cent) of these patients. There were 38 high-tension injuries and 91 low-tension injuries. The average age was 33.7 years (5 months to 63 years), with burn wounds ranging from 1 to 57 per cent total body surface area (mean 9.5 per cent). Ninety-four (72.9 per cent) of these injuries were work related, and most occurred in males (85 per cent). A total of 323 surgical procedures were performed on those 129 patients. An average of 0.48, surgical debridements per patient was necessary in the low-tension injury group and only three partial finger or toe amputations were necessary. In the high-tension group, 27 major limb amputations were performed after 2.3 debridements per patient, resulting in an overall major limb amputation rate of 35 per cent. The average length of stay was 22 days, and the cost of hospitalization ranged from $900 to $120 000 (mean !4,901). Significant long-term neurological deficits persisted in 73 per cent of patients at long-term follow-up (mean 4.5 years). Only 5.3 per cent of patients after high-voltage electrical injury were able to return to their premorbid job.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Amputation
  • Burns, Electric* / complications
  • Burns, Electric* / economics
  • Burns, Electric* / pathology
  • Burns, Electric* / surgery
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Hospital Costs
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Surgical Flaps