• arrhythmia;
  • burn;
  • electrical injury;
  • renal failure

Aim:  Electrical burns account for up to 10% of burns admissions worldwide. Although a potentially serious mechanism of injury in children, there exists limited Australian data. This study aimed to describe the epidemiology, presentation, management and complications of electrical burn injuries in children.

Methods:  We performed a retrospective case note review of all children under 16 years of age with electrical burns admitted to the New South Wales Paediatric Burns Centre over an 8-year, 2-month study period between November 1995 and December 2003.

Results:  Twenty-two cases were identified. The mean age at presentation was 7.6 years (range 8 months to 14.3 years). Eighty-six percent of cases were sustained from a Low Voltage (<1000 W) power source and 55% occurred in males. The total body surface area burnt ranged from 0.5% to 35% with an average of 4%. Fourteen children had their burns managed non-operatively, but eight required various surgical procedures ranging from local debridement and primary closure to full-thickness skin grafting. The average length of hospital stay was 6 days (range 1–58 days). Complications occurred in 4 of the 22 patients (18%) and included wound infections, acute renal failure because of myoglobinuria, permanent electrocardiogram changes and long-term paraesthesia. Three patients (14%) suffered continued morbidity because of scarring, amputation and psychological disturbance. There was no mortality.

Conclusions:  Electrical injury was an infrequent but potentially serious cause of injury in children. Minor injuries were successfully managed non-operatively. Neurological sequelae, cardiac arrhythmias and renal failure remain serious complications in up to 20% of cases.