electric shock

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electric shock,

effect of the passage of a current of electricity through the body. Fatality may result from shocks of from 1 to 2 amperes and 500 to 1,000 volts. However, the effect of electric shock on the body depends not only on the strength of the current, but on such factors as wetness of the skin, area of contact, duration of contact, constitution of the victim, and whether or not the victim is well grounded. The general range of disturbances include a mild tingling (usually produced by common static electricity), spasm of the muscles, loss of consciousness, and sometimes death. In addition, burns occur where the current enters and leaves the body. A lethal dose of electricity may paralyze the respiratory organs and damage the central nervous system; the immediate cause of death, however, is usually an interruption of heart action. Electroconvulsive therapyelectroconvulsive therapy
in psychiatry, treatment of mood disorders by means of electricity; the broader term "shock therapy" also includes the use of chemical agents. The therapeutic possibilities of these treatments were discovered in the 1930s by Manfred Sakel, a Polish
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 is the use of electric shock to treat certain mental illnesses.

Electric Shock


injury caused by electric current. Such injuries most often occur in the home or at the workplace; they also result from contact with lightning.

The severity of an electric shock varies with the parameters and duration of the current. Currents under 10 milliamperes (ma) produce only unpleasant sensations and, in more severe cases, involuntary muscular contraction near the point of contact with the electric wire (for example, arm muscles). Contact with a current of 15 ma causes muscular contraction so strong that it is impossible to free the fingers holding the wire. Currents of 25 ma or greater cause all the muscles of the body to go into spasm, including the respiratory muscles, thereby threatening death from asphyxia. Also disturbed are the nervous and cardiovascular systems. There is loss of consciousness, and clinical death occurs, requiring resuscitative efforts. An alternating current of about 100 ma acts directly on the heart, causing fibrillation and requiring the use of a defibrillator to restore normal rhythmic contractions. An alternating current of about 450–500 volts (v) is more dangerous than a direct current of the same voltage; however, at higher voltages direct currents are more dangerous. Currents greater than 350 v give rise to local changes—third and fourth degree electric burns in the places where the current enters and leaves the body. The changes differ in extent, from tiny “marks” to charring of a limb.

The prognosis for a victim of an electric shock depends on the promptness with which he is given first aid, which includes quick removal from contact with the current and, in severe cases, artificial respiration and cardiac massage. Hospitalization after electric shock is essential to treat burns and neurovascular disturbances. Electric shock can be prevented by strict compliance with safety rules in assembling, operating, and repairing electrical devices.


Berezneva, V. I. Elektrotravma, elektroozhogi i ikh lechenie. Leningrad, 1964.


electric shock

[i¦lek·trik ′shäk]
The sudden pain, convulsion, unconsciousness, or death produced by the passage of electric current through the body.

electric shock

the physiological reaction, characterized by pain and muscular spasm, to the passage of an electric current through the body. It can affect the respiratory system and heart rhythm