Absence of electrocardiographic change after prolonged application of a conducted electrical weapon in physically exhausted adults

Jeffrey D Ho, Donald M Dawes, William G Heegaard, Hugh G Calkins, Ronald M Moscati, James R Miner
Journal of Emergency Medicine 2011, 41 (5): 466-72

BACKGROUND: Conducted electrical weapons (CEWs) are used by law enforcement for control of subjects by causing neuromuscular incapacitation. There has been scrutiny of CEWs and their potential role in the occasional sudden death of subjects in custody. There is a hypothesized causal relationship due to induced cardiac dysrhythmia. Previous work has not shown dysrhythmia induction in resting humans. However, these devices are not often used on resting individuals in the field.

OBJECTIVE: We sought to determine if exposure to a CEW in a physically exhausted human sample population caused detectable change in the 12-lead electrocardiogram (ECG).

METHODS: Human volunteers were enrolled. All subjects had a baseline ECG obtained and then underwent an exercise regimen until exhaustion. The volunteers then received a continuous 15-s application from a TASERĀ® X26 CEW (TASER International, Scottsdale, AZ). CEW electrodes were placed on random positions of their anterior thoraces. Electrode positions involved at least a 12-inch spread and always encompassed the normal anatomic position of the heart. An ECG was obtained immediately after CEW exposure. ECGs were interpreted by a blinded cardiologist.

RESULTS: At baseline, 24/25 ECGs were normal. One baseline ECG was abnormal due to several monomorphic premature ventricular complexes. After CEW exposure, all 25 ECGs were interpreted as normal.

CONCLUSIONS: Prolonged CEW application in an exhausted human sample did not cause a detectable change in their 12-lead ECGs. Theories of CEW-induced dysrhythmia in non-rested humans are not supported by our findings.

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