Cardiac and skeletal muscle effects of electrical weapons: A review of human and animal studies

Sebastian N. Kunz, Hugh Calkins, Jiri Adamec, Mark W. Kroll

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

Abstract

Conducted Electrical Weapons (CEWs) are being used as the preferred non-lethal force option for police and special forces worldwide. This new technology challenges an exposed opponent similarly to the way they would be challenged by physical exercise combined with emotional stress. While adrenergic and metabolic effects have been meta-analyzed and reviewed, there has been no systematic review of the effects of CEWs on skeletal and cardiac muscle. A systematic and careful search of the MedLine database was performed to find publications describing pathophysiological cardiac and skeletal muscle effects of CEWs. For skeletal muscle effects, we analyzed all publications providing changes in creatine kinase, myoglobin and potassium. For cardiac effects, we analyzed reported troponin changes and arrhythmias related to short dart-to-heart-distances. Conducted electrical weapons satisfy all relevant electrical safety standards and there are, to date, no proven electrocution incidents caused by CEWs. A potential cardiovascular risk has been recognized by some of the experimental animal data. The effects on the heart appear to be limited to instances when there is a short dart-to-heart-distance. The effect on the skeletal muscle system appears to be negligible. A responsible use of a CEW on a healthy adult, within the guidelines proposed by the manufacturer, does not imply a significant health risk for that healthy adult.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)358-366
Number of pages9
JournalForensic Science, Medicine, and Pathology
Volume14
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 1 2018

Keywords

  • Conducted electrical weapon
  • Electrocution
  • Forensic medicine
  • TASER
  • Ventricular fibrillation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine

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