Darren Whitcomb, MD, Jorge A. Martinez, MD, JD, Dayton Daberkow, MD


South Med J. 2002;95(11) 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction

Lightning strikes may cause a constellation of injuries. Blunt head trauma, neurologic injury, and cardiac injury are common in these patients. In contrast to high-voltage electrocutions, blunt trauma after a lightning strike is common. Thorough evaluation of all organ systems is crucial. This report discusses mechanism of injury and describes initial evaluation and treatment of lightning strike victims.

In the United States, 50 to 300 deaths occur per year due to lightning injury, and lightning kills more people in this country each year than any other natural disaster, including volcanoes, blizzards, and earthquakes. Four to five times as many victims suffer nonlethal lightning injuries. Only 20% to 30% of people sustaining lightning injuries die; however, 76% of victims have long-term sequelae such as peripheral neuropathy and impaired mental abilities. Because people tend to seek shelter in groups, 30% of fatal lightning strikes involve two or more people at a time. Lightning injuries occur more often in the South, the Rocky Mountains, the Atlantic coast, and in the Hudson, Ohio, and Mississippi River valleys, where thunderstorms occur more frequently, especially in the spring, summer, and early fall.[1]


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