Taser Injuries Require Preparation in ERs

Use on rise; results may include seizures, heart rhythm disturbances, musculoskeletal injuries
By Eric Metcalf
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, July 28 (HealthDay News) -- Given law enforcement officers' growing use of Tasers and accumulating accounts of deaths from the electroshock devices, emergency nurses and other care providers need to be prepared to handle Taser-related injuries, according to a paper in the August Journal of Emergency Nursing.

Kristopher C. Pidgeon of Memorial Regional Hospital and Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital in Hollywood, Fla., and colleagues write that more than 150 people in the United States may have died from such electroshock injuries since June 2001. Taser injuries result from electrical current, electrical energy converted to heat and blunt trauma -- from falls, for example. These injuries can include burns, cardiac rhythm disturbances, bone and joint injuries, seizures and cognitive problems.

Initial assessment in such cases should include toxicological studies, spinal evaluation and screening for pre-existing conditions, the authors say. A health care professional should assess the patient's cardiac rhythm and oxygen saturation; maintain spinal precautions until the patient is cleared of spinal injuries; document mental status and vital signs; check urine for evidence of rhabdomyolysis; check for incontinence pointing to neurological problems; and remove the Taser barb, which is similar to a fishhook.

"Because the incidence of taser use is likely to continue to rise, emergency nurses must identify the issues, prepare to treat injuries, and implement policies and procedures specific to this population," the authors conclude.

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