Shots to the heart ‘not risky’
MedWire News: Taser deployments to the chest are no more dangerous than those to other body parts, say researchers.
The analysis of 1201 cases of Taser-conducted electric weapons (CEWs) used by law enforcement officers in the USA showed that there were no immediate deaths in any cases suggestive of a cardiac dysrhythmia, including those in which Taser probes landed on the upper chest area.
"While we know that the Taser is a very effective and remarkably safe weapon for law enforcement use, we also continue to have some concern about injuries that may be related to it," commented lead author William Bozeman (Wake Forest University, North Carolina, USA) in a press statement.
"However, in this review, we found no cases where there was an apparent cardiac complication related to the Taser, even in the worse-case scenarios when the probes landed across the front of the chest and the heart may have been in the path of the electric current produced by the device."
Bozeman et al found that among 1201 total CEW uses, 813 included probe deployments and 178 cases had paired anterior probe impacts potentially capable of producing a transcardiac discharge vector.
These transcardiac discharge vectors represented 14.8% of all 1201 CEW uses and 21.9% of the 813 in probe mode. There was no increased risk for significant injury in this group, as reported in the Journal of Emergency Medicine.
Bozeman said it was important to conduct the research because concerns have been raised that Taser activations across the front of the chest might be unsafe and should be avoided due to the possibility of probes landing near the heart.
He added that it was important to look at real-life cases, because criminal suspects are thought to be at a higher risk for complications than healthy volunteers due to the stress of the situation, the possible presence of drugs, and underlying medical conditions, amongst other factors.
"This analysis was done to assess whether medical data shows these concerns to be valid and whether law enforcement officers should change how the Taser is used in the field due to possible medical risks.
"The study results indicate that no adverse effects were seen that could be related to transcardiac conduction of Taser shocks."
MedWire (www.medwire-news.md) is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2012
By Piriya Mahendra