To summarize the current evidence-based knowledge about the long-term sequelae of injuries from electrical current.
Quality of evidence
MEDLINE was searched for English-language articles published in the past 20 years using the following search terms: electrical, injuries, wound, trauma, accident, sequelae, long-term, follow-up, and aftereffects. For obvious reasons, it is unethical to randomly study electrical injury in controlled clinical trials. By necessity, this topic is addressed in less-rigorous observational and retrospective work and case studies. Therefore, the strength of the literature pertaining to the long-term sequelae of electrical injury is impaired by the necessity of retrospective methods and case studies that typically describe small cohorts.
There are 2 possible consequences of electrical injury: the person either survives or dies. For those who survive electrical injury, the immediate consequences are usually obvious and often require extensive medical intervention. The long-term sequelae of the electrical injury might be more subtle, pervasive, and less well defined, but can include neurologic, psychological, and physical symptoms. In the field of compensation medicine, determining causation and attributing outcome to an injury that might not result in objective clinical findings becomes a considerable challenge.
The appearance of these consequences of electrical injury might be substantially delayed, with onset 1 to 5 or more years after the electrical injury. This poses a problem for patients and health care workers, making it hard to ascribe symptoms to a remote injury when they might not arise until well after the incident event.