Electrical injuries

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Electrical injury is a relatively infrequent but potentially devastating form of multisystem injury with high morbidity and mortality. Most electrical injuries in adults occur in the workplace, whereas children are exposed primarily at home. In nature, electrical injury occurs due to lightning, which also carries the highest mortality. The severity of the injury depends on the intensity of the electrical current (determined by the voltage of the source and the resistance of the victim), the pathway it follows through the victim’s body, and the duration of the contact with the source of the current. Immediate death may occur either from current-induced ventricular fibrillation or asystole or from respiratory arrest secondary to paralysis of the central respiratory control system or due to paralysis of the respiratory muscles. Presence of severe burns (common in high-voltage electrical injury), myocardial necrosis, the level of central nervous system injury, and the secondary multiple system organ failure determine the subsequent morbidity and long-term prognosis. There is no specific therapy for electrical injury, and the management is symptomatic. Although advances in the intensive care unit, and especially in burn care, have improved the outcome, prevention remains the best way to minimize the prevalence and severity of electrical injury.

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