Varying injuries from high voltage electricity: A case report of three sisters struck by lightning

Dr Shivani Aggarwala1, Dr Andrea Issler-Fisher1,2, Dr James Doherty1,2, Professor Peter Haertsch1,2, Professor Peter Maitz1,2

1Concord Burns Unit, 2University of Sydney

Lightning injuries are a rare phenomenon and present with varying degrees of harm to different systems. The cardiorespiratory, nervous and integumentary systems are often the most vulnerable. One of the most interesting phenomena from lightning strike is the superficial and transient Lichtenberg figures. Here, we present a case of three sisters struck by lightning, with very different degrees of injury and outcomes.

Three sisters were sitting on a park bench in contact with one another. The first sister directly struck by lightning required cardiopulmonary resuscitation, however later died from brain death in the intensive care unit. The sister seated in the middle suffered full thickness cutaneous burns at the entry and exit sites, to her right and left arms. The third sister presented with Lichtenberg figures on her abdomen and a full thickness burn to her sacrum, likely to be the exit site.

The initial presentation, resuscitation and management of these three sisters will be presented, to highlight the different severities of injury that result from direct strike versus side splash or contact voltage from a lightning strike. Lichtenberg figures, a rare but characteristic cutaneous manifestation will also be presented.


Dr Shivani Aggarwala is a medical graduate from the University of Sydney. She is currently working as a Surgical SRMO at Concord Burns Unit and has a keen interest in burns and reconstructive surgery.

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