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Police assist doctors by using Taser on patient

May 29, 2008 |  9:58 am


A recent episode of "Grey's Anatomy" depicted doctors treating a man who was encased in concrete. But real life is pretty interesting, too. Doctors at Hartford Hospital in Hartford, Conn., reported this week on a case in which a police officer provided the decisive treatment for a patient in need of help.

The patient was brought in by police after fleeing from them and hiding in a lake. When he was apprehended, he was hypothermic and had atrial fibrillation, an irregular heartbeat, of up to 145 beats per minute. During attempts to rewarm and treat him, however, the patient became agitated, ripping off his monitoring electrodes and intravenous line and threatening the hospital staff and the policeman who accompanied him.

That's when the officer stepped in, firing a Taser to the man's chest. The shock subdued the patient, but more important, it restored his heart rhythm to a safe 120 beats per minute.

Tasers have been accused of causing arrhythmias, which can sometimes even lead to sudden cardiac death, the doctors note in their paper, published in the Annals of Emergency Medicine. But this "fortuitous therapeutic" use of a Taser is the first known report of medical benefit. Says the lead author, Dr. Kyle A. Richards:

"In this instance, the patient received a very low dose of electrical current, but it was still enough to restore him to regular heart rhythm. This is the law of unintended consequences at work, or so it seems."

-- Shari Roan

Illustration: 'Information Graphics' by Peter Wildbur and Michael Burke