Which physical findings are characteristic 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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Electrical injuries can cause multiorgan dysfunction and a variety of burns and traumatic injuries. A thorough physical examination is required to assess the full extent of injuries. Occupational injuries have a high likelihood of future litigation, and physical examination findings should be documented with photographs if possible, with the proper releases, and filed in the patient's medical record.

Overall, low-voltage exposure tends to cause less overall morbidity than high-voltage, but it is important to ensure by accurate history that a seemingly low-voltage burn was not in fact from a high-voltage source (like a microwave, computer, or TV monitor—any device that "steps-up" voltage via a transformer). Low-voltage burns can still cause cardiac arrhythmias, seizures, and long-term complications if contact is near the chest or head.

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