HELEN B. TAUSSIG, M.D., F.A.C.P.
This article reviews a number of examples of persons who were struck by lightning and recovered. Statistics indicated that more persons recover after being struck than are killed. A person struck by lightning is instantaneously rendered unconscious. Heart action and respiration cease. Spontaneous recovery may occur if respiratory narcosis is not too long. The heart usually starts in sinus rhythm with marked bradycardia. Minor electrocardiographic changes are common; myocardial infarction is rare. When the patient first regains consciousness he may be mute and unable to move. Burns may be severe but heal remarkably easily. Transient headache and hypertension are common. Fractures of the limbs or skull may occur when the person is thrown to the ground.
Most of the reports concern spontaneous recovery. In strikingly few reports was any effort made to resuscitate the person who had been killed. Nevertheless, the report of Ravitch and colleagues shows the importance of cardiopulmonary resuscitation and prolonged artificial respiration for a person who appears to have been killed by lightning. Furthermore if recovery occurs, it is usually complete except for possible impairment or loss of sight or hearing. In my opinion, if a group of persons are struck by lightning, attention should first be directed to the dead, because those who show signs of life will in all probability recover even though burns or injuries may need treatment.
TAUSSIG HB. "Death" from Lightning—And the Possibility of Living Again. Ann Intern Med. 1968;68:1345–1353. doi: 10.7326/0003-4819-68-6-1345
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Published: Ann Intern Med. 1968;68(6):1345-1353.
Emergency Medicine, Pulmonary/Critical Care.
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