What is the prognosis 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

For those without prolonged unconsciousness or cardiac arrest, the prognosis for recovery is excellent. Burns and traumatic injuries continue to cause the majority of the morbidity and mortality from electrical injuries.

Morbidity and mortality are largely affected by the particular type of electrical contact involved in each exposure. Overall mortality is estimated to be 3-15%. [1, 8] Flash burns have a better prognosis than arc or conductive burns. [5]

Persons who experience low-voltage injuries without immediate cardiac or respiratory arrest have low mortality, but there may be significant morbidity from oral trauma in children who bite electrical cords [15] or adults who suffer burns to the hand.

Persons who experience low-voltage injuries with cardiac or respiratory arrest may recover completely with immediate CPR on scene; however, prolonged CPR and transport time may result in permanent brain damage.

High-voltage injuries often produce severe burns and blunt trauma. Patients are at high risk of myoglobinuria and renal failure. Burns are often ultimately much worse than they initially appear in the ED.


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