Exploding power: a statewide review of lithium battery related burns

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Jason Diab
Justine O’Hara
Andrea-Issler Fisher
Erik La Hei
Robert Gates
John Vandervord
Andrew JA Holland
Peter Maitz


explosions, patient safety, lithium, electronic nicotine delivery systems, New South Wales


Introduction: With the increase of lithium battery devices, including electronic cigarettes and battery power banks, there has been a steady rise in burn injuries secondary to device malfunction. These devices may cause chemical or flame burns. Our aim was to identify and classify epidemiological trends of explosions from lithium battery devices across the state of New South Wales (NSW), Australia.

Methods: A review of the NSW Burn Injury Service (SBIS) database from January 2005–December2019, together with medical records from the burns units at the Children’s Hospital at Westmead (CHW), the Concord Repatriation General Hospital (CRGH) and the Royal North Shore Hospital (RNSH) was conducted. All patients who suffered a burn secondary from a lithium battery device were included and data was extracted on mechanism of injury, severity of injury and management. This study was approved by the ethics committees of CHW, RNSH and CRGH [2020/PID00179].

Results: Of the 24 patients identified, six were paediatric and 18 were adults. The majority were male (7:1) with a mean age of 29.0 (+/- 16.6 years). The mean total body surface area burnt was 2.5% (+/- 0.9) [range 0.1–21.0%]. The majority occurred after 2014 and involved spontaneous explosions. Their injuries ranged from partial to full thickness burns with flame being the most common type (n=15). Three quarters of the cases (n=18) occurred in a home setting.

Conclusions: Lithium battery device explosions can result in a mix of burn depth injuries from flame, contact and electrical, or chemical burns. Consumers need to be made more aware of the potential risks associated with use of lithium battery powered devices.


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