Lithium ion button battery causing a full-thickness cutaneous burn while trapped under an occlusive burns dressing.

Ms Kelly  Wardell1, Dr Anthony Penna1, Dr  Tim T  Wang1, Dr  John Vandervord1, A/Prof Damian D Marucci1,2

1The Childrens Hospital Westmead,  Westmead , Australia, 2Department of Surgery, The University of Sydney, Camperdown, Australia


Introduction: Alkaline or lithium-ion button batteries can cause significant chemical burns in children who ingest or insert them into orifices. We present a rare and unusual case of a full thickness cutaneous burn related to a non-exploding Lithium ion button battery.

Case: A three-year-old male presented with a 5% TBSA oil scald burn to the neck and torso He underwent hydrosurgical debridement and application of an occlusive dressing. Dressing change on Day 13 revealed a lithium button battery under his dressings in direct contact with skin. This had caused a full thickness burn to the central chest with a significant circular cavity into the subcutaneous tissue. His burns were debrided and reconstructed with layered dermal matrix and split skin grafting.

Conclusion: Only a handful of cutaneous burns from button batteries exist in the literature. It is theorised that moist environments provide a conductive medium in which electrolysis and subsequent liquefactive necrosis of tissue can occur. Education regarding the potential for this injury is important. Battery redesign to prevent activation when not in a device may be beneficial.


This paper was authored through the Children’sHospital Westmead burns department. Kelly Wardell, a nurse practitioner from the unit will be presenting the case.


ANZBA is a not for profit organisation and the peak body for health professionals responsible for the care of the burn injured in Australia and New Zealand. ANZBA encourages higher standards of care through education, performance monitoring and research.

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