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JOURNAL ARTICLE

Eye injury from electrical weapon probes: Mechanisms and treatment

Mark W Kroll, Mollie B Ritter, Eric A Kennedy, Nora K Siegal, Roman Shinder, Michael A Brave, Howard E Williams
American Journal of Emergency Medicine 2019, 37 (3): 427-432
29887192

PURPOSE: While generally reducing morbidity and mortality, TASER® electrical weapons have risks associated with their usage, including burn injuries and head and cervical trauma associated with uncontrolled falls. The primary non-fatal complications appear to be significant eye injury but no analysis of the mechanisms or suggested treatments has been published.

METHODS: We used a biomechanical model to predict the risk of eye injury as a function of distance from the weapon muzzle to the eye. We compared our model results to recently published epidemiological findings. We also describe the typical presentation and suggest treatment options.

RESULTS: The globe rupture model predicted that a globe rupture can be expected (50% risk) when the eye is within 6 m of the muzzle and decreases rapidly beyond that. This critical distance is 9 m for lens and retinal damage which is approximately the range of the most common probe cartridges. Beyond 9 m, hyphema is expected along with a perforation by the dart portion of the probe. Our prediction of globe rupture out to 6 m (out of a typical range of 9 m) is consistent with the published risk of enucleation or unilateral blindness being 69 ± 18%, with an eye penetration.

CONCLUSIONS: Significant eye injury is expected from a penetration by an electrical weapon probe at close range. The risk decreases rapidly at extended distances from the muzzle. Not all penetrating globe injuries from electrical weapon probes will result in blindness.

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