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Projective electronic control devices or conductive electrical weapons are commonly known as “TASER” (Thomas A. Swift’s Electric Rifle) devices (Figure 125-1). They are often used by law enforcement and civilians as a less than lethal alternative to subdue individuals. These devices are deployed at an estimated rate of 904 times per day or approximately one every 2 minutes (personal communication, Steve Tuttle, TASER Int.). TASER devices are estimated to have saved individuals from serious injuries and death from guns and hand-to-hand combat. The devices prevent injury and death of law enforcement officers.1 These devices are currently used in 107 countries throughout the world. They work by delivering a high-voltage, low-amperage electric shock that affects the motor and sensory functions of the nervous system.2

There are currently no U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) guidelines for TASER probe removal. This leaves protocols to be established by individual agencies, Emergency Departments (EDs), Emergency Physicians, and hospitals. The protocols vary. Treat all probes that have penetrated the skin as biohazards. Follow OSHA standard universal precautions when handling and removing the probes.


The electric shock is delivered through barbed electrodes that attach to the weapon by conductive wires, penetrates skin and clothing, and disrupts voluntary muscle control. The probe is like a fishhook (Figure 125-2). A wire is attached to the proximal end to conduct the electrical charge from the weapon to the probe. The body of the probe is smooth and aerodynamic. The distal end of the probe contains the barb with a reverse hook to maintain itself in a person and not fall out. The barb end contains one or two barbs (Figures 125-2A and 125-2B). A new probe was released at the end of 2016 and is available as of 2017.

FIGURE 125-2.

The TASER probes. A. The XP and the standard probe. B. The new probe released at the end of 2016. (Courtesy of TASER Int.)

Blast doors protect the undeployed cartridge. The cartridge contains the probes that are angled away from the center, puncture pin, primer, nitrogen capsule, and the anti-felon identification system (AFID) (Figure 125-3). The probes are loaded into the cartridge such that the top probe goes straight and the other probe is at a fixed angle when deployed. The cartridges snap into the weapon. The TASER cartridges ...

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