What is the role of imaging studies in the diagnosis 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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Choice of imaging studies is dictated by the presence of blunt trauma, altered mental status, cardiac or respiratory arrest, and type of electrical exposure. Studies to be considered are as follows:

  • Chest radiography - Any patient with cardiac or respiratory arrest, shortness of breath, chest pain, hypoxia, CPR at the scene, or fall/blunt trauma

  • Head computed tomography - Any patient with altered mental status, significant traumatic mechanism, seizure, loss of consciousness, or focal neurologic deficits

  • Cervical/spine imaging - Patients with loss of consciousness or significant trauma should be cervical spine immobilized and imaged accordingly. Clinical clearance may be appropriate for some patients with normal mental status without significant injuries. Patients with focal neurologic deficits or evidence of spinal cord injury should undergo full spinal imaging.

  • CT/ultrasonography - Depending on the amount of trauma sustained and the pathway of the current exposure, patients may require further imaging to evaluate for internal injuries. Imaging modality varies depending on suspected injury and availability.

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