Electrical injuries represent life-threatening emergencies. Evidence on differences between high (HVI) and low voltage injuries (LVI) regarding characteristics at presentation, rhabdomyolysis markers, surgical and intensive burn care and outcomes is scarce.
Consecutive patients admitted to two burn centers for electrical injuries over an 18-year period (1998-2015) were evaluated. Analysis included comparisons of HVI vs. LVI regarding demographic data, diagnostic and treatment specific variables, particularly serum creatinine kinase (CK) and myoglobin levels over the course of 4 post injury days (PID), and outcomes.
Of 4075 patients, 162 patients (3.9%) with electrical injury were analyzed. A total of 82 patients (50.6%) were observed with HVI. These patients were younger, had considerably higher morbidity and mortality, and required more extensive burn surgery and more complex burn intensive care than patients with LVI. Admission CK and myoglobin levels correlated significantly with HVI, burn size, ventilator days, surgical interventions, amputation, flap surgery, renal replacement therapy, sepsis, and mortality. The highest serum levels were observed at PID 1 (myoglobin) and PID 2 (CK). In 23 patients (14.2%), cardiac arrhythmias were observed; only 4 of these arrhythmias occurred after hospital admission. The independent predictors of mortality were ventilator days (OR 1.27, 95% CI 1.06-1.51, p = 0.009), number of surgical interventions (OR 0.47, 95% CI 0.27-0.834, p = 0.010) and limb amputations (OR 14.26, 95% CI 1.26-162.1, p = 0.032).
Patients with electrical injuries, HVI in particular, are at high risk for severe complications. Due to the need for highly specialized surgery and intensive care, treatment should be reserved to burn units. Serum myoglobin and CK levels reflect the severity of injury and may predict a more complex clinical course. Routine cardiac monitoring > 24 h post injury does not seem to be necessary.