What is the role of current in the pathogenesis of electrical injuries?

Updated: Mar 09, 2020
  • Author: Tracy A Cushing, MD, MPH, FACEP, FAWM; Chief Editor: Joe Alcock, MD, MS  more...
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Answer

The volume of electrons flowing across the potential gradient is the current, which is measured in amperes (I). It is a measure of the amount of energy that flows through a body. Energy is perceptible to the touch at a current as low as 1 mA. A narrow range exists between perceptible current and the "let go" current: the maximum current at which a person can grasp and then release the current before muscle tetany makes it impossible to let go. The "let go" current for the average child is 3-5 mA; this is well below the 15-30 A of common household circuit breakers. For adults, the "let go" current is 6-9 mA, slightly higher for men than for women. Skeletal muscle tetany occurs at 16-20 mA. Ventricular fibrillation can occur at currents of 50-100 mA. [4]


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