Pediatric electrical injuries: a review of 38 consecutive patients
BACKGROUND/PURPOSE: The aim of this study was to explore the mechanisms, complications, morbidity, and mortality associated with electrical injuries in children.
METHODS: The charts of pediatric patients who had been admitted to the authors' center with electrical burn injuries (EBI) between January 1993 and October 2002 were reviewed retrospectively.
RESULTS: Of the 764 acute burn admissions over a 9-year period, 5% (38 patients) had EBI. Mean age was 9.6 +/- 4.4 years (range, 1 to 16 years). Seventy-six percent of the EBI patients were boys (M to F, 29:9), and the extent of the burn wounds ranged from 1% to 50% of total body surface area (TBSA; mean, 18.6% +/- 14.7%). High-voltage (HV) electricity accounted for 63% of the EBI (1 lightning), and 37% were caused by low-voltage (LV) current. In 19 children, serious high-voltage injuries occurred by direct contact with outlet electrical transfer wires with a metal from a balcony or with manual contact while climbing to the pole. A total of 153 surgical procedures were performed on the EBI patients, and 26% of the cases (10 of 38) required amputations. Patients who sustained HV electrical injuries had associated major complications. All of the patients underwent close cardiac monitoring, and none had cardiac complications. The average hospital stay was 23.8 +/- 14.2 (range, 2 to 48) days. One patient died of wound sepsis.
CONCLUSIONS: Although not frequent, EBI remain a serious problem, particularly in adolescent boys, and short- and long-term morbidity are significant. HV injuries occur mainly in the adolescent population and require more aggressive care. Balcony injury is a specific etiology for EBI, and special consideration is required to prevent this type of injury in our country.