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Emergency Medical Services Experience With Barb Removal After Taser Use By Law Enforcement: A Descriptive National Study

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 December 2018

Mazen El Sayed*
Department of Emergency Medicine, American University of Beirut Medical Center, Beirut, Lebanon Emergency Medical Services and Prehospital Care Program, American University of Beirut Medical Center, Beirut, Lebanon
Chady El Tawil
Department of Emergency Medicine, American University of Beirut Medical Center, Beirut, Lebanon
Hani Tamim
Department of Internal Medicine, American University of Beirut Medical Center, Beirut, Lebanon
Aurelie Mailhac
Department of Emergency Medicine, American University of Beirut Medical Center, Beirut, Lebanon
N. Clay Mann
Department of Pediatrics, University of Utah School of Medicine, Salt Lake City, Utah USA
Correspondence: Mazen J. El Sayed, MD, MPH, FACEP, FAEMS Associate Professor of Clinical Emergency Medicine Director of Emergency Medical Services & Prehospital Care Department of Emergency Medicine American University of Beirut Medical Center P.O.Box - 11-0236 Riad El Solh Beirut, Lebanon 1107 2020 E-mail:



Conducted electrical weapons (CEWs), including Thomas A. Swift Electric Rifles (TASERs), are increasingly used by law enforcement officers (LEOs) in the US and world-wide. Little is known about the experience of Emergency Medical Service (EMS) providers with these incidents.


This study describes EMS encounters with documented TASER use and barb removal, characteristics of resulting injuries, and treatment provided.


This retrospective study used five combined, consecutive National Emergency Medical Services Information System (NEMSIS; Salt Lake City, Utah USA) public-release datasets (2011-2015). All EMS activations with documented TASER barb removal were included. Descriptive analyses were carried out.


The study included 648 EMS activations with documented TASER barb removal, yielding a prevalence rate of 4.55 per 1,000,000 EMS activations. Patients had a mean age of 35.9 years (SD=18.2). The majority were males (80.2%) and mainly white (71.3%). Included EMS activations were mostly in urban or suburban areas (78.3%). Over one-half received Advanced Life Support (ALS)-level of service (58.2%). The most common chief complaint reported by dispatch were burns (29.9%), followed by traumatic injury (16.1%). Patients had pain (45.6%) or wound (17.2%) as a primary symptom, with most having possible injury (77.8%). Reported causes of injury were mainly fire and flames (29.8%) or excessive heat (16.7%). The provider’s primary impressions were traumatic injury (66.3%) and behavioral/psychiatric disorder (16.8%). Only one cardiac arrest (0.2%) was reported. Over one-half of activations resulted in patient transports (56.3%), mainly to a hospital (91.2%). These encounters required routine EMS care (procedures and medications). An increase in the prevalence of EMS activations with documented TASER barb removal over the study period was not significant (P=.27).


At present, EMS activations with documented TASER barb removal are rare. Routine care by EMS is expected, and life-threatening emergencies are not common. All EMS providers should be familiar with local policies and procedures related to TASER use and barb removal.

El SayedM, El TawilC, TamimH, MailhacA, MannNC. Emergency Medical Services Experience With Barb Removal After Taser Use By Law Enforcement: A Descriptive National Study. Prehosp Disaster Med. 2019;34(1):38–45.

Original Research
© World Association for Disaster and Emergency Medicine 2018 

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Conflicts of interest/funding: This publication was supported by Cooperative Agreement Number DTNH22-09-H-00262 from the US Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA; Washington, DC USA). The findings and conclusions of this publication do not necessarily represent the official views of NHTSA. The authors report no conflicts of interest. The authors alone are responsible for the content/writing of the paper.


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