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Boys Suffer Rare Injuries After Being Struck by Lightning

Update Date: Sep 19, 2013 02:37 PM EDT

Two eight-year-old twin boys suffered life-threatening injuries after being struck by lighting while camping in their backyard.

The boys sustained penetrating blast injuries when a bolt of lightning struck a transformer near their tent, according to an extremely rare case study published September 18.

"One of the boys had a missile trajectory through the lung -- very much like injuries caused by improvised explosive devices (IEDs) -- which we could have missed because on the outside he had only a tiny puncture wound to the chest," lead study author Lt. Col. O.J.F. van Waes, of the department of trauma surgery at Erasmus University Medical Center in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, said in a news release.

"His brother was also injured. What is remarkable is that they were not struck by lightning themselves, but were hit by shrapnel that went flying when lightning struck a transformer near them," van Waes explained.

Researchers said the less seriously injured brother had second-degree burns to the face and copper wires protruding from his shoulder blade.  The more seriously injured brother suffered a collapsed lung after a two-centimeter length of copper wire lodged in his chest.

Both brothers were treated successfully and released.

The most common lighting injuries are burns caused by direct lighting strikes to the body.

"We were familiar with IED-type injuries from our deployment in the recent military conflict in Afghanistan," said Dr. van Waes. "Our experience in the military setting helped us deliver prompt treatment to a very seriously injured boy. Remember: If there is lightning anywhere near you, go indoors."

The case study was published in the journal Annals of Emergency Medicine.

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