Electric Shock: Long-Term Side Effects & Complications

Instructor: Alyssa Campbell

Alyssa is an active RN and teaches Nursing and Leadership university courses. She also has a Doctorate in Nursing Practice and a Master's in Business Administration.

Injuries resulting from electric shock can be severe and require long-term care. Read this lesson to learn about the most common injuries caused by electric shock and how they impact the individual.

How Does Electric Shock Happen?

Jordan loves fine arts and spends most of his free time sketching with charcoal or experimenting with oil paints. As a professional artist, he is hired to paint a mural inside a building that is undergoing a complete renovation.

The project is a few minutes ahead of schedule, and he has some time to break for lunch. Upon his return, he is unaware that live wires are exposed in his area of work. He climbs his metal ladder to continue his work. When he is about halfway up, water is spilled all over the floor of his workspace. The water connects the current in the live wires to his metal ladder, sending an electric shock to his body.

What is Electric Shock?

Electric shock occurs as a result of the human body coming into contact with a current, or live electricity. Side effects of a small shock may consist of small burn wounds requiring first-aid treatment at home. However, coming into contact with large amounts of current can be quite devastating resulting in significant long-term side effects and complications that require medical management.

Seeking Medical Attention

Electric shock can result in a variety of injuries that may require long-term care.


Depending on severity, burns resulting from electric shock may require emergency medical care and long-term wound management. Wounds that are difficult to heal may undergo a strict dressing and medication regimen, as well as the administration of antibiotics to prevent infection.

Burns may also result in necrotic or dead tissue, requiring amputation or surgical removal in the hopes for new growth.

Broken Bones

Bone fractures may occur secondarily due to injury sustained after the shock (like falling from a ladder), or can be directly caused by the force and strength of the current itself. Complications of a bone fracture include improper healing, impaired mobility, and pain.

Internal Damage

Perhaps the most significant long-term or chronic complication of electric shock includes damage to internal organs. Because the brain controls the parts of the body through the use of electric signals to send messages, the electric shock may have caused severe internal damage. It is also difficult to judge internal damage because it is not visible to the naked eye, making it easy to overlook.

Several systems in the body heavily rely on electrical activity to function, including the neurological system and cardiovascular system. The neurological system, consisting of the brain, spinal cord, and nerves, controls response and body movements. The heart and blood vessels make up the cardiovascular system. Electric shock can damage and impair critical organs and the function of these two important systems, making them weak or even useless.

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