Lightning Injury of the Tympanic Membrane

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A number of cases of otologic injuries by lightning strikes have been described in the otolaryngological literature. The mechanism of these injuries remains uncertain. We report 3 cases of lightning injury that presented to us. Analysis of these cases suggests that the mechanism of injury is direct conduction of electricity from the scalp to the soft tissues of the external auditory canal to the tympanic membrane. The conduits of the electrical surge are the subcutaneous blood vessels, smaller vessels being damaged more than larger vessels. Since the tympanic membrane central vessels are smaller than the canal vessels, the central area of the tympanic membrane would be most vulnerable, and this is seen clinically. A review of the literature supports this proposed mechanism of injury.

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