Emergency Medical Services Experience With Barb Removal After Taser Use By Law Enforcement: A Descriptive National Study

Prehosp Disaster Med. 2018 Dec 28;1-8. doi: 10.1017/S1049023X18001176. Online ahead of print.


Background: Conducted electrical weapons (CEWs), including Thomas A. Swift Electric Rifles (TASERs), are increasingly used by law enforcement officers (LEOs) in the US and world-wide. Little is known about the experience of Emergency Medical Service (EMS) providers with these incidents.

Objectives: This study describes EMS encounters with documented TASER use and barb removal, characteristics of resulting injuries, and treatment provided.

Methods: This retrospective study used five combined, consecutive National Emergency Medical Services Information System (NEMSIS; Salt Lake City, Utah USA) public-release datasets (2011-2015). All EMS activations with documented TASER barb removal were included. Descriptive analyses were carried out.

Results: The study included 648 EMS activations with documented TASER barb removal, yielding a prevalence rate of 4.55 per 1,000,000 EMS activations. Patients had a mean age of 35.9 years (SD=18.2). The majority were males (80.2%) and mainly white (71.3%). Included EMS activations were mostly in urban or suburban areas (78.3%). Over one-half received Advanced Life Support (ALS)-level of service (58.2%). The most common chief complaint reported by dispatch were burns (29.9%), followed by traumatic injury (16.1%). Patients had pain (45.6%) or wound (17.2%) as a primary symptom, with most having possible injury (77.8%). Reported causes of injury were mainly fire and flames (29.8%) or excessive heat (16.7%). The provider's primary impressions were traumatic injury (66.3%) and behavioral/psychiatric disorder (16.8%). Only one cardiac arrest (0.2%) was reported. Over one-half of activations resulted in patient transports (56.3%), mainly to a hospital (91.2%). These encounters required routine EMS care (procedures and medications). An increase in the prevalence of EMS activations with documented TASER barb removal over the study period was not significant (P=.27).

Conclusion: At present, EMS activations with documented TASER barb removal are rare. Routine care by EMS is expected, and life-threatening emergencies are not common. All EMS providers should be familiar with local policies and procedures related to TASER use and barb removal.El Sayed M, El Tawil C, Tamim H, Mailhac A, Mann NC. Emergency Medical Services experience with barb removal after TASER use by law enforcement: a descriptive national study.

Keywords: ALS Advanced Life Support; BLS Basic Life Support; CEW conducted electrical weapons; ED emergency department; EMS Emergency Medical Services; LEO law enforcement officer; NEMSIS National Emergency Medical Services Information System; TASER Thomas A. Swift Electric Rifle; Emergency Medical Services; NEMSIS; conducted electrical weapons; law enforcement; prehospital; taser.