Electrical weapons, hematocytes, and ischemic cardiovascular accidents

Mark W Kroll, Klaus K Witte, Sebastian N Kunz, Richard M Luceri, John C Criscione
Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine 2020, 73: 101990

BACKGROUND: There have been case reports following the use of a conducted electrical weapon (CEW) suggesting that these devices might affect coagulation or thrombosis in at-risk individuals. The aim of this manuscript therefore is firstly to explore this hypothesis by reviewing each of these cases and secondly to report the results of a prospective study exploring a priori the effects of electrical weapons on hematocytes in a group of human volunteers.

METHODS: First, we systematically reviewed all cases of adverse outcomes following CEW discharge that could be due to an effect on coagulation or thrombosis, with particular focus on the clinical scenario and its relationship with the weapon discharge. Second, we assessed hematocyte levels in venous blood from 29 volunteers before, 5 min after, and 24 h after receiving a full-trunk 5-s TASER® X26(E) CEW exposure.

RESULTS: Following extensive review of the literature, we found 3 relevant case reports of possible vascular thromboembolic clinical events after CEW exposure, specifically a case of ischemic stroke, and 2 cases of ST-segment elevation myocardial infarctions. Review of these published cases failed to establish a plausible linkage to the CEW beyond a temporal association with significant emotional and physiological stress from a violent struggle. Our prospective study of biomarker change following CEW discharge revealed acutely increased values for WBC (white blood cells), specifically lymphocytes and monocytes, and a raised platelet count. Neutrophil levels decreased as a percentage of WBC. While these changes were statistically significant at 5 min, all results remained within established reference ranges. At 24 h, all values had returned to baseline except total WBC which decreased to slightly below baseline but was still within the normal reference range.

CONCLUSIONS: A review of clinical cases, of ischemic or thrombotic events revealed no direct association with the CEW discharge. A full-trunk electrical weapon exposure did not lead to hematocyte changes beyond normal clinically expected variations in similar acute response scenarios. The case report and biomarker data do not support the hypothesis that a CEW discharge is associated with changes likely to promote coagulation or thrombus formation.

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