Researchers at Wake Forest Baptist
Medical Center have successfully tested a prototype conducted electrical weapon
(CEW) capable of recording a subject’s heart rate and rhythm while still
delivering incapacitating electrical charges.
study is published in the current online edition of the Journal of Forensic and
best known by the brand name Taser – have proved to be a generally safe and
effective way for law-enforcement officers to subdue criminal suspects and
threatening individuals in non-lethal situations. Cases of serious injury and
death related to the use of these devices are extremely rare and often include
other risk factors, including drug use and pre-existing medical conditions. But
isolated reports of deaths occurring shortly after the use of CEWs have raised
concerns they caused cardiac rhythm disturbances in targeted individuals.
basic components of a CEW – probes that penetrate the skin while attached to
insulated wires connected to an electronic device – are functionally similar to
what is used to obtain an electrocardiogram,” said Jason P. Stopyra, M.D.,
assistant professor of emergency medicine at Wake Forest Baptist and lead
author of the study. “We set out to see if we could combine a heart monitoring
device with an existing CEW to detect and store cardiac rhythms without
impeding the function of the weapon, and we succeeded.”
the study, the research team modified standard law enforcement CEW cartridges
to transmit electrocardiogram (EKG) signals then combined a miniaturized EKG
recorder with a standard-issue CEW. In tests on human volunteers, the
researchers’ prototype device successfully produced both incapacitating charges
and interpretable EKG signals.
serves as proof-of-concept that safety measures such as cardiac biomonitoring
can be incorporated into CEWs and possibly other law enforcement devices,” said
William B. Bozeman, M.D., professor of emergency medicine at Wake Forest
Baptist and senior author of the study. “Such devices, when fully developed,
could alert law enforcement personnel to potential medical issues in real time
and promote the rapid treatment of individuals who may suffer a medical crisis
while in custody.”
Support for the project was
provided by grants 2004-IJ-CX-K047 and 2006-DE-BX-K002 from the National
Institute of Justice. Phase 3 of this project was supported by an
investigator-initiated grant from the Medtronic Corporation.
Co-authors are Samuel I.
Ritter, M.D., Jennifer Beatty, M.D., James C. Johnson, M.P.A.S., James E.
Winslow III, M.D., and Alison R. Gardner, M.D., of Wake Forest Baptist and
Douglas M. Kleiner, Ph.D., of Tactical Medics International, Jacksonville