Mechanisms of action
The sequels of electric injuries may be attributed to different mechanisms of action:
- Disturbance of the electrical stimulus conduction at electrically excitable and conductive structures, i.e., nerves and muscles. The effects depend on the functions of the cells: A muscle cell contracts, while a nerve cell stimulates other nerve cells, induces a muscle contraction or transmits a signal to the brain. The consequences of disordered stimulus conduction may be very diverse and depend on the involved tissues or organs (e.g., heart, peripheral nerves, brain and muscles). Ventricular fibrillation, unconsciousness, involuntary muscle contractions, seizures or paralysis might be induced.
- Thermal effects: The released thermal energy can cause burns on the body surface and necrosis of muscles and internal organs. Furthermore, thrombosis and embolism in the vascular system may – also with a delayed onset – occur.
- Electroporation, which can lead to a reversible or permanent damage of the cell membrane on cellular level.
- Indirect causes such as e.g. a fall of a ladder induced by a startle reaction.
Several mechanisms of action can contribute together to the sequels of electric injuries in different tissues and organs of the human body.