Test Your Knowledge: Less-Lethal Law Enforcement Weapon Injuries

Less-lethal weapons and tactics are being increasingly used by law enforcement to minimize the reliance on more-lethal force. While these methods are designated as “less-lethal,” they can cause morbidity and mortality when deployed. Knowledge of these weapons and tactics can help direct the workup and management of patients with injuries from these methods and can protect clinicians from secondary exposure and injuries.

Our recent issue Less-Lethal Law Enforcement Weapons: Clinical Management of Associated Injuries in the Emergency Department reviews the most common less-lethal weapons and tactics used by law enforcement, describes their mechanism of action, and discusses associated common injury patterns. Recommendations are provided for the evaluation and management of these patients in the emergency department. 

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Here are a few key points:

  • Patients presenting with diffuse muscular pain after conducted electrical weapon (CEW) deployment should have a creatine kinase, urine dipstick, and renal function checked.
  • To remove TASER barbs: (1) grasp dart or wire and pull firmly straight backwards; (2) place a 16-gauge needle over the barb portion and back the dart out of the skin; or (3) anesthetize the skin, make a small incision down to the barb, and remove the barb through the incision.
  • If a CEW patient has an osseous injury, perform lavage and exploration of the area if tendon sheath, bone, or joint involvement is suspected.

Read the full issue and earn 4 CME credits!

Last Updated on January 25, 2023

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