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Effects of Air Tasers on St. Jude Medical Implantable Cardiac Rhythm Devices

Background

Air Tasers are used by law enforcement as a means to subdue combative or non-cooperative persons. The Air Taser fires two small dart-like electrodes, which stay connected to the main unit by conductive wire. Air Tasers primarily function by creating neuromuscular incapacitation, which means that it interrupts the ability of the brain to control the muscles in the body.

Potential effects

Air Tasers deliver electrical current to the body. These signals can interfere with the normal operation of pacemakers and implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICDs). Response can vary from total inhibition to inappropriate therapy. The electrical impulses from the Air Taser may be interpreted as “electrical noise” in ICDs and cause a noise reversion. During a noise reversion the device will not deliver therapy (therapy includes ATP pacing, cardioversion and defibrillation). If the electrical current from an Air Taser is misinterpreted as cardiac events in an ICD, inhibition of bradycardia pacing and/or inappropriate arrhythmia detection and therapy delivery are possible. If the electrical current from an Air Taser is misinterpreted as cardiac events in a pacemaker, inhibition of bradycardia pacing or reversion to asynchronous pacing are possible. These effects should be transient when the Air Taser is actively delivering current. When the delivery of current ends the pacemaker or ICD should return to normal function.

External energy sources, like the energy output from the Air Taser’s electrodes, may reset the ICD’s programmed settings. During a device reset the programmed parameters are set to predetermined values which may not be clinically appropriate for the patient.

Of more concern, however, the 3/8-inch needlepoint of the Air Taser could potentially make contact with the ICD or pacemaker case or the leads upon penetration of the patient’s body. If this rare event occurs, the electrical current could then be transmitted directly from the probes to the ICD, pacemaker or leads.

A summary of potential effects is provided in the table below and is based on clinical experience and/or a review of the scientific literature.

Potential Effect Estimated Frequency
  Pacemakers ICDs
Total inhibition of pacing Common Common
Asynchronous pacing/noise reversion Common Common
Inappropriate therapy delivery Not applicable Uncommon
Failure to deliver needed therapy Not applicable Uncommon
Device reset/backup operation Uncommon Uncommon
Damage if needlepoint contacts device or leads Rare Rare

If you have any questions on this topic, please contact St. Jude Medical Technical Services at 800-722-3774.

PDF Effects of Air Tasers on St. Jude Medical Implantable Cardiac Rhythm Devices (21.3kb)
Rev 02/10