Electrical burns and injuries can cause temporary or permanent damage to skin, tissues and major organs. Caused by contact with exposed parts of electrical appliances, wiring or lightning strikes, electrical burns and injuries can range in seriousness, but even short contact with an electrical current can cause injuries. An electrical shock from household current can cause fatal heart dysrhytmias.

Signs and symptoms of an electrical burn:

  • Visible burns on the skin
  • Headache
  • Weakness
  • Numbness
  • Tingling
  • Lightheadedness
  • Heart arrhythmias

Electrical burn injuries can include:

  • Entrance wounds
  • Exit wounds
  • Arc wounds
  • Thermal wounds
  • Hidden wounds

The severity of an electrical burn depends on the amount of electricity you came into contact with and how long your body was in contact with the current. Similar to other burns, electrical burns have three degrees of severity, with tissue damage depending on:

  • Voltage of the source
  • Amperage of current passing through the tissues
  • Resistance of tissue traversed by current
  • Duration of contact
  • Pathway of the current

Initial treatment of an electrical burn depends on what injuries were caused, and the response of the individual to the electric shock. These initial steps should be taken with safety in mind so that no one else is injured:

  • Ensure that electrical power is off before touching patient
  • Ensure patient is removed from source
  • Start CPR if needed
  • Remove all clothing and jewelry
  • Document pulses
  • Monitor for dysrhythmias

Questions to Ask:

  • What was the voltage from the pour source?
  • What was the duration of contact?
  • Was the patient thrown or did the patient fall?
  • What was the estimated voltage?
  • Was there loss of consciousness?
  • Was CPR administered?

Because electrical injuries often involve areas below the skin that cannot be seen, such as bones or tendons that can act as conduits for the current, there are special considerations for such injuries:

  • Lethal dysrhythmias
  • Vascular compromise
  • Compartment syndrome
  • Renal dysfunction or failure

For more information on electrical burns or how to treat them, contact Burn and Reconstructive Centers of America at 855-863-9595. If you’re a healthcare provider looking to refer a patient, check out our referral process and how we’re able to assess and create a care plan in minutes.