Spinal cord injury (SCI) is a common yet devastating condition that is associated with death or permanent disability. In developing countries, most incidents of SCI are caused by vehicle accidents, falls, and firearm injuries. Very few studies have focused on SCI that occurs after falling from electricity poles. Although this mechanism of injury is relatively uncommon in the general population, it is a significant concern for individuals who do electrical work and other kinds of manual labor.
Researchers have identified a need to study these injuries separately from other kinds of falls, because people who fall from electrical poles often also suffer from electrocution, which is associated with a unique pattern of injuries that can impact the outcomes of SCI. To this end, a recent study in Pakistan investigated the complications and outcomes in 37 individuals who sustained SCI after being electrocuted and falling from an electricity pole. They found that:
- All of the patients who sustained these injuries were male, and only one-quarter were electricians by trade. The remainder were laborers from other professions who were working on electricity poles anyway.
- Nearly three-quarters of the participants were partially or totally paralyzed from the waist down after sustaining SCI. Most of the participants also showed progressive weakness and stiffness in the limbs.
- About half of the patients experienced ongoing nerve pain after injury.
Less than 5% of SCIs are caused by falls from electricity poles after electrocution. Individuals who do sustain these injuries are at significantly higher risk of poor outcomes, including paralysis, chronic pain, amputation, progressive weakness, and limb amputation. Critically, researchers note an urgent need to protect laborers by improving safety regulations that prevent non-electricians from working on electricity poles.
Zeb A, Arsh A, Bahadur S, & Ilyas SM. Spinal cord injury due to fall from electricity poles after electrocution. Pakistan Journal of Medical Sciences. (August 2019).