Topic Progress:

Topic Three: Electrical Burns

Electrical burns are caused by an electrical current passing through the body from an entry point to an exit point. The burn is caused by the heat energy of the electric current damaging tissue along its path of flow. The extent of tissue damage is determined by the voltage of the current.

Electrical current takes the path of least resistance through the body. This path allows for the electrical energy to be transformed to heat, damaging the tissue it contacts. Least resistance is offered by nerves and blood vessels, whereas bone and fat offer the most resistance. If major organs, such as the heart, brain or kidneys are involved, the damage can be profound. As much of the damage is below the skin at the level of muscle, fat and bone, the severity of the injury can be difficult to determine (the “iceberg” effect).

Low voltage – small, deep contact burns are seen at the entry and exit points.

High voltage – can cause extensive deep tissue damage and even limb loss.

Note - Internal damage may be more severe than the initial appearance of the skin.

Electrical burns may interfere with cardiac cycle and cause arrhythmias.

(Wounds International, 2014; Jeschke et al., 2018)