In a recent article, surgeons from England reported on an electric shock that resulted, 18 months later, in blood vessel problems, causing death of the leg bone at the hip joint. The patient was apparently susceptible because of a genetic predisposition.
The patient had stepped on a 500 volt exposed conductor, and his footwear was wet. His muscles contracted but after about 30 seconds he was able to pull himself free.
The surgeons believe that his genetic weakness would probably have not caused the blood vessel problem and resulting leg bone problem, except for the electric shock.
He underwent total hip replacement. The femoral head, that is the top end of the thigh bone, was examined and showed that the blood vessels had died.
“More than five years after the injury the patient’s [total hip replacement] was functioning well and the opposite hip remained clinically and radiologically normal.”
The surgeons commented on the unfortunate typical results as the voltage increases.
“The consequences of electrical injuries to bone may present immediately or after a delay of months to years; in addition, the bony injuries may exist near the entry point, or at a point distant from it.
Most reports to date relate to high-voltage injuries (i.e. currents over 1000 V). These currents take a direct path between entry and exit point. Blood vessels and nerves are severely damaged as are muscle and skin damage, resulting in amputation in over 50% of cases. …
Low-voltage currents (< 1000 V) behave differently and follow the path of least resistance along nerve and blood vessels. Bone itself is a poor conductor and does not carry a large enough current to sustain direct damage.”
The article, by L. Vanderstraeten and M. Binns, is titled Osteonecrosis of the Femoral Head Following an Electrical Injury to the Leg. It was published in the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, and is set out in a RedOrbit.com blog post.