Previously, electrical injuries have been suggested caused only by the concomitant heat developed during the passage of an electrical current. Recent experimental studies on fully anesthetized pigs and the study of one human case have, however, shown typical electrical alterations. The purpose of the present study was further to evaluate the histology of electrically induced changes in the skin in humans. In addition, supplementary in vivo methods for evaluation of skin changes as high-frequency ultrasound and Raman spectroscopy were used. The skin of 11 patients treated with a defibrillation of the heart was examined for macroscopic changes, the skin of eight of them also for histologic changes and for changes observable via supplementary methods. Immediately and 7 days after the defibrillation, fractions of a narrow red ring were observed along the periphery of the tin-foil electrode. Epidermis showed signs previously observed following electrical influence: segmental alterations often related to the openings of sweat ducts, darkstaining or "empty" nuclei and homogeneous cytoplasm, eosinophilic or pale. Dermis did not show the specific sign of electrical influence: deposits of calcium salts on dermal fibres, neither via histologic examination nor via high-frequency ultrasonography and Raman spectroscopy. Fractions of a narrow red ring along the periphery of the electrode showing histological signs of electric influence in epidermis thus appear to be characteristic of high voltage electrical injury.
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