Electrician’s Eyes After 14K-Volt Electric Shock?

Claim:

A viral image authentically shows the eyes of an electrician after he was accidentally shocked with 14,000 volts of electricity.

Rating:

True

A shocking image was posted on X by user @creepydotorg on Aug.10, 2023. It consisted of a pair of photos deemed to show the eyes of an electrician who was shocked with 14,000 volts of electricity after his shoulder touched a live wire. The caption on the post states:

The eyes of an electrician after being zapped by 14,000 volts of electricity. His shoulder touched a live wire and the current passed through his entire body, including the optic nerve, which connects the eye to the brain. The effect was two bizarre star-shaped electrical burns in his eyes.

The image is authentic. It originated with a scientific article published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) on Jan. 23, 2014. It was written by Dr. Bobby S. Korn and Dr. Don O. Kikkawa, both ophthalmologists and professors at the University of California, San Diego. Korn treated the patient whose eyes were featured in the image. The article’s abstract reads: 

A 42-year-old male electrician presented to the eye clinic with decreasing vision 4 weeks after an electrical burn of 14,000 V to the left shoulder. His vision in both eyes was limited to perception of hand motions, with an intraocular pressure of 14 mm Hg in each eye.

The authors wrote that after four months, the patient underwent cataract extraction and implantation of a special lens, which resulted in some visual improvement. Two years after the operation, the electrician suffered retinal detachment in his left eye, which was operated on to repair. Korn told Live Science that at a 10-year follow-up visit, the patient could only count fingers with his left eye. He was able to read using low-light aids and independently use public transportation, although he was legally blind.  

“The optic nerve is similar to any wire that conducts electricity, Korn said. “In this case, the extreme current and voltage that passed through this important natural wire caused damage to the optic nerve itself.” 

Korn was referencing the optic nerve that was damaged from the shock to the man’s left shoulder, as described in the NEJM article. The information in the X post is corroborated by the NEJM article. The viral image appears to be an exact match, albeit cropped, for the one published in that article. The cropped version was featured in the Live Science article, where the X user likely found the image. 

For these reasons, we have labeled the claim “True.” 

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