An electrical injury (also called electric shock) is an injury resulting from contact with an electric current. How bad the injury is depends on the strength of the current, its path through the body, and how long the contact with it was. Burns, problems with the heart and brain, and other injuries to the body can occur. People who survive an electric shock usually recover, but if the shock was severe, they may have lasting health problems.
Electrical injuries are usually caused by accidents with electrical appliances, wiring, or machinery. Sometimes a lightning strike can cause these injuries.
Symptoms depend on how bad the shock was. Immediate symptoms include numbness, tingling, or pain; burns; confusion or loss of memory; problems speaking; shortness of breath; and headache. Others are seizures, paralysis (inability to move), hearing loss, and loss of consciousness. Broken bones can result from a fall after the shock.
Long-term effects of more serious electrical injuries include burns, psychological problems, altered state of mind, and eye, heart, and internal injuries.
The health care provider makes a diagnosis from the medical history, as well as how the electrical injury occurred. The health care provider will do a physical examination, blood tests, and maybe a urinalysis. Other tests may be done, depending on how severe the shock was, including chest X-ray, electrocardiography (ECG), and brain computed tomography (CT). The ECG records the heart’s rhythm.
Treatment depends on the seriousness of the injury. Sometimes, a hospital visit is needed. Dressings are applied to burns. Oxygen is given for breathing difficulties. Broken bones will be treated. Fluid and medicines, either by mouth or through a vein, may be given.
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Copyright © 2017 by Saunders, an imprint of Elsevier, Inc.
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