What is an Electrical Burn?
For this post, an electrical burn in the house is defined as low voltage AC (Alternating Current) burn.
Quickcare or ER
If any of the following had been experienced by an electrocuted person, then go to the ER:
- Any electrical burn involving a large part of the body
- A High-Voltage burn
- A loss of consciousness
- Heart flutter or palpitations
What Will The Doctor Ask?
In terms of electrical injuries, your doctor will ask of the type of electrical exposure (high voltage or low voltage, house outlet), duration of exposure and the part of the body that had direct contact. Your doctor will want to know your SYMPTOMS. Remember, symptoms are your description of your condition to your doctor. It is your story. When electrocution is involved, heart arrhythmia is at the forefront of key symptoms. Thus, there will be questions of chest pain and/or palpitations. Furthermore, because electrical injuries may catapult persons, basic trauma questions need to be part of the narrative.
What will your doctor look for?
Your doctor will look for signs. Remember, SIGNS are objective findings that a doctor sees upon examination. Your doctor will want to thoroughly exam a patient to look for burn sites. The larger to burns, the more IV fluids need to be given. Since an electrically shocked body may get thrown through the air, trauma injuries need to be investigated. Cervical protection needs to be considered.
Additionally, electricity going into the body may disrupt the electricity going around the heart. For that reason, all shocked patients need an EKG to look for cardiac damage.
Children have a unique set of circumstances. Many do not understand the electrical hazards of a common outlet chord. It is not uncommon for kids to burn the sides of their mouths after chewing on a wire at home. Burns around their mouths may cause arterial (Labial artery) bleeding.
What is your doctor thinking?
Your doctor will make a mental list of possible reasons for your SIGNS and SYMPTOMS. This list is called the DIFFERENTIAL DIAGNOSIS.
- Cardiac Your doctor will consider rhythm changes as a result of an electrical interference. Electricity entering the body may interfere with the heart electricity needed to pump the heart.
- Trauma Electrical shocks may be so extreme that it may launch a grown adult. Like any trauma patient, injuries may include anything from neck injuries to collapsed lungs to broken bones.
- Burns The severity of a burn is a very significant factor for your doctor to consider. As stated, an electrical shock may launch a patient across the room. In contrast, others may hang to the electrical source thus causing a deep dangerous burn. Deep burns may involve muscle tissue breakdown. Such an extreme injury of an arm or leg may lead to compartment syndrome. Furthermore, the broken down muscle tissue may clog up the kidneys. (rhabdomyolysis)
What is the treatment of electrical burns?
In terms of trauma injuries, the protocols set the American Trauma Life Support program need to be followed. It is important to keep in mind that a shocked body may get tossed in the air. If a heart arrhythmia occurs, close monitoring and intervention are warranted. Electrical burns need to be treated carefully. It is important to be mindful of the possibility of a deep-tissue burn that may lead to compartment syndrome. Failure to consider this phenomenon may result in limb amputation. Children who had chewed on a wire may develop delayed bleeding. That is, the labial artery around the mouth may bleed 5 day to two weeks after the injury. Thus, the treatment of applying pressure to the bleeding site is key.
How long will you be sick?
The length of recovery depends on the extent of the injury. Patients with a low voltage electrocution who are asymptomatic and demonstrate a normal EKG may be discharged home. If a burn is noted but the EKG is fine, patients may be observed for 4-6 hours. However, if there was a high-voltage electrocution, an abnormal EKG and signs of muscle breakdown, then admission is warranted. Severe burn cases are best sent to a burn unit.
The key always is to prevent an electrical shock via safety and education.