July 2, 2012
Taser Shocks Unlikely To Cause Cardiac Complications
redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online
A Taser shot to the chest is unlikely to result in cardiac complications, and is no more dangerous than one delivered to any other part of the body, an expert on the devices claims in a new study.
William P. Bozeman, M.D., an associate professor of emergency medicine at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, and a team of researchers analyzed more than 1,200 actual cases of Taser use by law enforcement officials, the health facility announced. They discovered that none of the devices could be linked to heart-related problems, even when the probes landed on a person's upper chest and delivered a shock that may have crossed the heart.
“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,” Bozeman said in a statement. “However, in this review, we found no cases where there was an apparent cardiac complication related to the Taser, even in the worst-case scenarios when the probes landed across the front of the chest and the heart may have been in the path of the electrical current produced by the device."
His team's findings are published online this month in the Journal of Emergency Medicine.
Bozeman and his colleagues looked at a total of 1,201 cases of Taser use by law enforcement personnel at various agencies throughout the US against criminal suspects. Of those cases, 22% (178) involved the probe landing on the chest of the suspect and delivering an electrical charge that could have travelled across the heart area.
Ninety-four percent of the suspects involved in those incidents were males, with a mean age of 32. None of the suspects were found to have had heart-related complications, nor were they found to have a higher injury rate than suspects with Taser shots where the probes hit different areas of the suspect's anatomy.
"Bozeman said it was important to conduct this research because concerns have been expressed 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," the medical center's press release said. "It also was important to look at real-life situations“¦ because criminal suspects are thought to be at a higher risk of complications than healthy volunteers because of the stress of the situation, the possible presence of drugs, underlying medical conditions and a variety of 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," Bozeman said, adding that the study results "indicate that no adverse effects were seen that could be related to transcardiac conduction of Taser shocks" and that the research "adds to the accumulated medical evidence that Tasers are safe and effective and that their risks overall are extremely low."