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November 30, 1970

Low-Voltage, Direct-Current Burns

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Anesthesiology, Memorial Hospital for Cancer and Allied Diseases, New York.

JAMA. 1970;214(9):1681-1684. doi:10.1001/jama.1970.03180090047009

Burns were caused by 14VDC from a regular electrosurgical device which appeared to be in good working condition. On testing, contact with voltages as low as 3VDC were found to cause electrochemical burns due to the electrolysis of saline. Conductive jellies, liquids, pastes, and pads which are used frequently also undergo electrolysis in the presence of direct current and can burn the patient. As many newer medical electronic devices can give off low voltage, direct current, not perceptible on brief contact, the incidence of burns is likely to rise, unless the risks of such equipment are appreciated.