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Date of last update: 10/19/2017.

Forum Name: Chest symptoms

Question: chest pain after electric shock


 sabina - Thu Aug 12, 2010 6:33 am

i had a pretty severe electrical shock today. i was testing a faulty laptop and got a shock from the elctrical cord, the shock went through my index finger and i am guessing my belly as i have burn marks through 3 layers of clothes and had a black scorch mark on my belly, no burns but the scorched area is painful.

i suffered severe chest pains that subsided after 10 mins, (thought i was having a heart attack!), muscles and insides still ache hours later.

chest pains come and go but not as severe as original one.

i was wondering if this ok to be left untreated or should i see a doctor?
 Dr.M.Aroon kamath - Sat Aug 14, 2010 11:46 am

User avatar Hi,
The passage of current through the body and its effects depend on a number of variables.
The amount of current:
The minimum current humans can feel is considered to be about 1 milliampere (mA).Currents from 1-5 mA, give rise to 'shocks'. Sustained Curerents of 30-200 mA can result in death.

Current density: current per unit area is known as current density. Small currents passing through a large surface area of the body may not be felt, but the same current passing through a finger or a toe(smaller cross-sectional area=greater current density), causes greater heating and may result in burns.

Frequency of the current: domestic mains supply is generally 50-60 Hz. Alternating current (AC) of this frequency is particularly dangerous for the heart. Even cardiac standstill may occur.
Resistance: wet skin is much less resistant to current than dry skin.
Duration of the current: longer the duration, mor is the damage caused.

There are broadly 2 types of electric shock.

- the more common "macroshocks"- wherein the current reaches the heart after passing through the body and
- "microshocks"- wherein the current directly reaches the heart from the source(ex; via transvenous pacing wires), without having to pass through the resistance of the tissues. In these instances, even very minute amounts of current can cause ventricular fibrillation. Macroshocks are more commonly seen in the domestic and work environments.

The injuries caused by electric current may be of two types.
- due to the current actually coursing through the body, or
- "arc" burns or flash burns (akin to lightning) affecting the surface of the body(internal injuries may also occur depending on the severity of the arcing).

The effects on the heart range form sudden cardiac death to involvement of the conducting tissues of the heart which may present even years following the episode.

Luckily, you seem to have come out of it with only moderate damage but, it is better to consult your doctor and have yourself assessed(including an EKG). Also, it is important to have your tetanus immune status reviewed and updated.
Best wishes!

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