patient with electrical stimulation on her back

Physical TherapyElectrical Stimulation Burns

Physical Therapy Malpractice Causes Electrical Stimulation Burns

Electrical stimulation burns can be caused by a failure to properly prepare a patient and to use clean electrical stimulation pads.

Electrical Stimulation DangersElectrical Stimulation should be safe.

Patients suffering from muscular, neurologic and orthopedic injuries are frequently prescribed physical therapy. Electrical stimulation is a routine and generally safe component of a physical therapy program. The treatment increases blood flow to hurt areas, provides a gentle massage and at times pain relief. Most patients and unfortunately some physical therapists believe that the electrical stimulation treatments do not involve risks. Electrical stimulation burns should be avoided by following simple safety procedures. A third degree burn is often far worse than the injury most patients sought physical therapy to resolve.

Electrical stimulation treatments have resulted in first, second and sometimes third degree burns. These burns are extremely painful and may result is permanent scarring. Patients that suffer electrical stimulation burns sometimes do not feel the damage during the treatment. Most patients that suffer these burns are told by therapists and doctors that they have never heard of patients suffering serious electrical stimulation burns.

The physical therapy malpractice lawyers at Patterson Law offer free consultations to assess whether electrical stimulation burns are due to malpractice or a defective machine.

Electrical Stimulation Uses ElectricityElectricity is potentially dangerous

The safe handling of electrical current requires the proper use of insulation and an understanding of conductivity. Insulation is the plastic covering on the wires that transfer the electricity from the electrical stimulation machine to the electrical pads. The therapist ideally wants the electricity to penetrate the tissue of the patient. Electricity requires conductivity to penetrate tissue. Copper wire that is used in power cords is highly conductive. Electricity moves safely and quickly through power cords. Every person that has ever seen a hair dryer or an electric light bulb has witnessed materials that have poor conductivity. Hair dryers use a coil that lacks good conductivity and the electricity faces resistance in the coil. The result is the poorly conductive coil turns red hot. An old fashion light bulb uses an element with poor conductivity that results in the electricity turning into a hot light.

The electrical pads used with electrical stimulation machines are designed for strong conductivity. The electricity travels through an insulated wire to a pad that feels wet and sticky. Gel is sometimes used to increase the conductivity between the pad and the patient’s skin. If the conductivity is strong the electricity enters the tissue of the body with very little resistance. If the conductivity is poor the electricity faces resistance on its way to the body and heat is generated. This heat can result in an electrical stimulation burn.

The electrical stimulation burn lawyers at Patterson Law can review your treatment and burn injuries to determine whether the burn was due to physical therapy malpractice.

Third Degree burns are known as full thickness burns that go through the dermis and affect deeper tissues.

What The Therapist Did WrongPenny wise pound foolish

Electrical stimulation pads are typically disposable and arrive stuck to a sheet in a sealed bag. The sealed bag and sheet protects the wet sticky surface of the pad that is essential to good conductivity. Pads can be reused but they should be placed back on the sheet in a sealed bag. The pads should also only be used on the same patient and for a limited number of treatments. If the pads are not properly stored they may dry out or become contaminated. This will reduce conductivity and increase heat. Pads are sticky. Sticky pads will pick up contaminants. A therapist should clean the skin of a patient before applying a pad to remove contaminants. If the skin is not cleaned lotions, dirt, dead skin and other things will contaminate the sticky pad. If a contaminated pad is reused repeatedly the conductivity can decrease.

There are certain electrical stimulation settings and programs that are designed to provide pain relief and numb the treated area. These programs can result in a patient not feeling the damage to their skin caused by poor conductivity. Many electrical stimulation machines contain a conductivity meter that lets the therapist know whether there is good conductivity before the treatment begins and during the electrical stimulation. Physical therapists should also monitor their patients for signs of burns and skin irritation.

There are other potential mistakes that therapist can make that may result in electrical stimulation burns. There are medical conditions that a therapist and the prescribing doctor should know about that may increase the risk of electrical stimulation burns. These conditions include certain types of injuries and diabetic neuropathy that may lead to the patient not feeling a burn.

If you have sustained an electrical stimulation burn please contact the physical therapy malpractice lawyers at Patterson Law to determine whether your burn was due to a medical error. Medical Malpractice lawyer George Patterson has successfully pursued a claim for third degree burns as a result of electrical stimulation performed at a physical therapy facility.

George Patterson is one of the best attorneys that I have ever worked with!!!!! I found him on AVVO and the reviews are so true about him. I am very pleased to have worked with him!! I would recommend him to anyone that needs a great attorney!!


A Personal Injury Client.

Electrical stimulation burns are so unusual that many physical therapists are simply unaware that serious electrical stimulation burns can occur if safety rules are not followed.

George Patterson

Electrical Stimulation Burn Lawyer

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