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Eye injuries and tasers

To the Editor: Taser (TASER International) injuries have been topical in the news media. This provides an important reminder of the possible traumatic sequelae associated with the use of electronic control devices.

A taser is a battery-powered unit that uses a nitrogen cartridge to propel two darts on a 7 m copper wire.1 Each dart consists of a 4 mm harpoon-like barbed electrode on a 13 mm × 1 mm shaft (Box), deployed at 18 m/s from a distance of 3–6 m. Increasingly, tasers are being used by police in every state of Australia to subdue violent people.

When the deployed darts attach to a target individual’s skin or clothing, a current of up to 50 000 volts is released for a period of up to 5 s, depending on the skin’s resistance (which varies based on fat content, thickness, cleanliness and body chemistry).2 The mechanical impact of the barbs, combined with the subsequent voltage released, represents a considerable hazard to eyes, genitalia and large blood vessels in the neck.2

Essentially, the eyeball is a liquid-filled globe with a wall thickness < 1 mm, making it particularly susceptible to electrical damage. TASER International states that “serious injury, including…