Diagnosis of Long-Term Sequelae After Low-Voltage Electrical Injury

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Abstract

The purpose of this study was to determine the efficacy of diagnostic tests and specialty consultations in aiding the diagnosis of long-term symptoms after low-voltage electrical injury (EI). A retrospective hospital chart review of low-voltage electrical-injured patients admitted to the outpatient burn clinic of a rehabilitation hospital was conducted (January 2002 to March 2006). Results of tests and specialty consultations were compared between patients with low-voltage contact injuries and patients with low-voltage flash injuries using Student's t-test and χ2 with a P < .05 considered significant. Forty patients were treated for low-voltage EI, and all injuries occurred at work. Three patients were excluded due to lack of exact voltage documentation. Of the remaining 37 patients, there were 31 males (83.8%) and 6 females (16.2%) with a mean age of 36.7 ± 11.0 years and a mean TBSA of 7.7 ± 7.3%. Of 83 specialty consultations, the most frequents were psychology (38.6%), physiatry (21.7%), neurology (15.7%), and orthopedic (8.4%). Eighty percent of consultations were negative (no pathology). Patients with electrical contact injury had more specialty consultations (68.7 vs 31.3%, P = .003), especially neurology (21.1 vs 3.8%, P = .027), and more tests than patients with electrical flash injury (86.5 vs 13.5%, P < .001). Four (6.3%) CT scans and 14 (21.9%) magnetic resonance imaging scans were performed in electrical contact injury patients, but the majority of their results were negative (75 and 71.4%, respectively). Ultrasound, bone scan, and x-rays were negative: 80, 100, and 100%, respectively. Low-voltage electrical-injured patients are frequently referred for specialty consultations and tests, which are usually not effective to correlate their long-term symptoms with the initial EI.

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