Institute for the Prevention of In-Custody Deaths
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J. Ho1; D. Dawes2; H. Calkins3; M. Johnson4
1. Emergency Medicine, Hennepin County Medical Center, Minneapolis, MN, USA.
2. Lompoc District Hospital, Lompoc, CA, USA.
3. Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD, USA.
4. TASER International, Scottsdale, AZ, USA.

Presented at Fourth Mediterranean Emergency Medicine Congress (MEMC IV), Sorento, Italy
ID# T2.43 - Location: Poster Hall (Hilton Sorrento Palace)
Time of Presentation: September 18, 2007 - 2:00 PM
Category: Cardiovascular, non-CPR/Resuscitation

INTRODUCTION: Conducted electrical weapons (CEWs) are used by police for control of subjects by causing pain and neuromuscular incapacitation. There has been scrutiny of CEWs and their potential role in the sudden death of subjects in custody. While there are numerous cases every year of custodial deaths when no CEW is used, criticism of this device has led to a hypothesized causal relationship. One theory is that CEWs may cause death from cardiac dysrhythmia. Previous work has shown that CEW application for 5 seconds does not induce dysrhythmias in resting humans. We sought to determine if prolonged exposure to a CEW in an exerted human sample population caused detectable change in the 12-lead electrocardiogram (ECG).

METHODS: 25 human volunteers were studied after receiving institutional review board approval. All subjects had a baseline ECG obtained and were then put through a regimen of timed push-ups and a sprint on a treadmill at 8.5 degrees of elevation until subjective exhaustion. This was to simulate the physical exertion often seen in subjects prior to CEW application in the field by police. The volunteers then received a continuous 15-second application from a TASER® X26 CEW (TASER Intl., Scottsdale, AZ). Volunteers received random positions of the CEW electrodes on their thoraces, either both electrodes in front or both in back. Electrode positions involved at least a 12 inch spread and always encompassed the normal anatomic position of the heart. An ECG was obtained following CEW exposure. All 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 15 second CEW application in a physically exhausted adult human sample did not cause a detectable change in their 12-lead ECGs. Theories of CEW induced dysrhythmias are not supported by our findings.

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