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Tasers May Affect Heart Function

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Keck School study offers the first documented evidence that taser energy can result in the heart’s electrical stimulation.

Taser discharges could pose a risk to individuals with a pacemaker or internal cardiac defibrillator, according to Leslie A. Saxon, USC co-author of the study.Several deaths have been reported regarding the controversial use of tasers by police. In a new study published in the Journal of Cardiovascular Electrophysiology, researchers at the Keck School of Medicine of University of Southern California examine the first recorded case of taser-induced myocardial capture (a rapid beating of the lower chambers of the heart) in a person with a dual-chamber pacemaker. The study marks the first documented evidence that taser energy can result in electrical stimulation of the heart to rapid heart rates. The study examined data stored in the pacemaker of a 53-year-old man experiencing non-specific chest pain a week after receiving a taser shot. Although the pacemaker continued to function normally, it registered two high-rate episodes of myocardial capture, indicating a taser-induced rapid heart rate corresponding with the times of taser application. It is unknown if this stimulation of the heart can take place without a pacemaker present. It is possible, the study suggested, that cardiac devices themselves may provide a preferential pathway for electric currents to reach the tissue of the heart. “As structurally abnormal hearts may be further compromised by rapid stimulation, taser discharges could pose an additional risk to those individuals who have either a pacemaker or internal cardiac defibrillator,” noted Leslie A. Saxon, co-author of the study and chief of the division of cardiovascular medicine at the Keck School. (Source: Journal of Cardiovascular Electrophysiology : University of Southern California : July 2007)

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Posted On: 30 July, 2007
Modified On: 16 January, 2014

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