Microwaves create heat through molecular agitation. The greater the water content of a particular tissue, the greater the heat produced. Thus, muscle, which has more water than fat, tends to be heated more than fat. While conventional ovens employing radiant heat cook from the outside in, microwaves directly heat the internal tissue. With radiant heat, the maximum injury occurs to the outside of the body, while with microwave ovens, the opposite may occur.
Burns caused by microwave ovens, as reported in the literature, tend to be indirect. These are usually cases where a microwave heats a liquid to a very high temperature and the person ingests the liquid without realizing how hot it is. Direct microwave injuries are rare. Those having forensic relations are even rarer. Alexander et al. reported two children who incurred full-and partial-thickness burns caused by being placed in microwave ovens.14 The burns were well demarcated without charring. Biopsies of the burns in
one case showed sparing of different tissues, with a sandwich-type appearance to the burns. Thus, there were burns of the skin, sparing of the subcutaneous fat, and burns of the muscle. The burns were based on the distribution of water in these tissues.
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