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View Full Version : Dune Movie Heart Plugs: Possible or Not?


ricksummon
12-12-2010, 10:22 PM
In the Dune movie and video games, the Harkonnens implant "heart plugs" in their minions. If the minions screw up, their bosses can just pull out the plug and kill them.

My question is: With our current medical technology, could we actually implant a heart plug in a person? That is, could we put a hole in someone's heart and attach a plug to it such that the person would survive normally unless or until the plug was pulled out?

Mangetout
12-13-2010, 02:11 AM
I think a hole in the side of the heart itself would be a problem mechanically, because it would be hard to plug it with something artifical and have it seal properly.

It would be easier to slip a loop of wire around the aorta and attach this to a hande that is outside the body. I think there's a lobe of lung overlaying most of the heart, which might complicate the pre-plug-pulling operation.

engineer_comp_geek
12-13-2010, 02:46 AM
Even if you could get it to seal properly, I still don't picture this thing working in the real world. If the boss pulls the plug, the minion isn't going to immediately fall down and die. Without assistance he or she will probably stay conscious for at least 10 or 15 seconds, and all the minion has to do to stop from dying is stick their finger in the hole to stop all of their blood from leaking out.

I can also picture a lot of minions accidentally getting the handle of their heart plug caught on something and having the plug ripped out. If you cover up the handle so that the plug can't easily get caught on something then the boss can't easily grab it to rip it out either.

Jaguars!
12-13-2010, 04:13 AM
I've never read the book in question but it would be a very messy death with a lot of blood, screaming and just enough time to think of some really insulting last words!

Would it work better if a sort of small grappling hook was inserted into a heart chamber? the cable could go out through a metal tube which would be easier to seal and surgeon types already put metal joint replacements in today. *rushes to patent office*

LSLGuy
12-13-2010, 06:08 AM
Those folks had some pretty advanced tech. Instead of a literal plug like a bung in a barrel, how about a "plug" which was a small electrical device which would send the heart into fibrillation when triggered?

On the outside you just need a switch, which could be in the physical shape of a plug you pull out or away from the body. When you pull the plug: the device fires, the heart fibrillates, blood pressure drops to zero, and the errant minion is unconscious in 3-5 secs.

Heck, it could also be a very small explosive; I'd bet a mere firecracker going off inside a heart full of thick liquid (blood) would do a fatal amount of damage due to hydrostatic shock.

CalMeacham
12-13-2010, 06:37 AM
I've never read the book in question but it would be a very messy death with a lot of blood, screaming and just enough time to think of some really insulting last words!

It's not in the book, as the OP properly implies. It's one of those innovations for the Lynch film, like the Weirding Modules or the bushy eyebrows on the Mentats, or Baron Vladimir's near-terminal acne that upsets some of the fans.

Blake
12-13-2010, 07:23 AM
Without assistance he or she will probably stay conscious for at least 10 or 15 seconds...

Nope. A free draining hole in the ventricle means blood pressure = air pressure. Loss of consciousness would be near instantaneous.

I'm guessing you are assuming that the victim has to lose enough blood to be rendered unconscious, but it's much faster than that

and all the minion has to do to stop from dying is stick their finger in the hole to stop all of their blood from leaking out.

There might be something to that. but I doubt if they would remain conscious long enough to manage it.

I can also picture a lot of minions accidentally getting the handle of their heart plug caught on something and having the plug ripped out. If you cover up the handle so that the plug can't easily get caught on something then the boss can't easily grab it to rip it out either.

Well it was a silly movie in many ways.


I've never read the book in question ...


Gak. Heresy. That nonsense was never in the book.


Would it work better if a sort of small grappling hook was inserted into a heart chamber? the cable could go out through a metal tube which would be easier to seal and surgeon types already put metal joint replacements in today. *rushes to patent office*

It would work better just to shoot them.

If you want to be able disable somebody fast, you carry a gun.

If a servant is going to try to kill you, they won't let you attack their most vulnerable point, and trying to grab a tiny ring in a fight is almost impossible.

If you really want to fuck around with complex surgery, you disable the natural pacemaker and implant a synthetic one, with a remote control built in. That way you don't need to get within half a mile to stop their heart.

Blake
12-13-2010, 07:24 AM
Instead of a literal plug like a bung in a barrel, how about a "plug" which was a small electrical device which would send the heart into fibrillation when triggered?

Heh. Great minds.

And no, your post wasn't their when I started writing mine.

Hypno-Toad
12-13-2010, 07:53 AM
I thought the "plug" just referred to the surface patch that sealed the surgery. The actual killing device was a length of shiga wire looped around the heart. One quick tug and the wire cuts the heart in half.

I wonder if the Harkonnen troops had these installed. It seems like a bad idea to install a quick-kill tab on a fighting man in a world where combat is hand to hand.

kombatminipig
12-13-2010, 08:23 AM
Reminds me of a story I heard from a diving buddy of mine. Apparently he was doing some work in Scotland, experimenting with breathing heliox mixtures under pressure. Their test subjects were a heard of goats, which for some reason deemed suitable. I'll leave his description of two people caught in a pressure chamber with one very ill mannered and highly nitrogen narced goat to your collective imaginations.

In any case, he told me that they modified the goats to have one of their jugulars exposed outside the skin for easy blood samples. With time, he told me, the blood vessel would pretty much heal and get a thin layer of skin on top, complete with fur and all. Now, when the goats got to fighting, as goats tend to do, a horn caught in the wrong place could have rather messy results. :D

muldoonthief
12-13-2010, 08:26 AM
If you really want to fuck around with complex surgery, you disable the natural pacemaker and implant a synthetic one, with a remote control built in. That way you don't need to get within half a mile to stop their heart.

How about getting them addicted to a drug which can only be produced by hairless cats?

Machine Elf
12-13-2010, 09:12 AM
I've never read the book in question but it would be a very messy death with a lot of blood, screaming and just enough time to think of some really insulting last words!

That's more or less how it was portrayed in the David Lynch movie. Not so much of the screaming and parting shots, but lots of blood and obvious dread of death on the part of the victim, apparently much to the delight of the Baron.

re: the OP's question, I'd guess it might be technically challenging to have a plug in the wall of the heart that is also affixed to the chest wall; the relative movement between the heart muscle and the chest wall could be problematic.

IANAD, but it seems like it would be easier to attach it to the aorta a short distance away from the heart, where there's not so much movement.

Jaguars!
12-13-2010, 04:21 PM
It's not in the book, as the OP properly implies...
So he did.

I've never seen the movie either, the OP Title just grabbed my imagination for some reason. I think I might put the book on my list for my next library visit. :)

For a literal plug and socket from chest to heart could a slightly bigger hole be made and some other tissue grafted between the heart and socket to act as a sort of flex between the socket and heart?

Enochian
11-29-2012, 10:31 PM
I thought I would revive this thread after reading an article discussing the topic of hacking pacemakers... It reminded me of the heart plugs the Harkonnen had in the movie Dune... Heart plug confirmed...

Hack attack: Now your pacemaker is vulnerable
Warning issued over dangers from medical devices

In the demonstration, Jack showed how he could remotely cause a pacemaker to suddenly deliver an 830-volt shock, which could be heard with an audible pop. He was able to do it by breaching the security of the wireless device and reprogramming it using a laptop.

http://www.wnd.com/2012/11/death-by-pacemaker-scary-possibility/

Really Not All That Bright
11-29-2012, 11:20 PM
I wonder if the Harkonnen troops had these installed. It seems like a bad idea to install a quick-kill tab on a fighting man in a world where combat is hand to hand.
One reason why I'd never, ever have a nipple ring. Not that I'm much of a fighter anyway.

Der Trihs
11-30-2012, 12:31 AM
I recall a news story I read years ago, about a kid who fell on a pencil and impaled his heart with it. Fortunately his mother was a nurse who kept her head (probably not easy under the circumstances), saw the pencil moving in and out with her son's heartbeat, and called emergency rather than yanking the pencil out. So we have an actual heart plug scenario, although an inadvertent one.

So personally I'd say it's quite possible, although impractical for the various reasons people have already mentioned. With modern medical technology though I doubt we could make one that wouldn't kill you in relatively short order anyway by a blood clot or scar tissue in the wrong place.

RealityChuck
11-30-2012, 10:13 AM
The concept was used in an episode of The Outer Limits from 1963: "It Crawled From the Woodwork." It used technology available at the time, too. While it required a monster to work back then, I think it would be technically feasible to make it work today: the minions would all be people dependent on pacemakers, and an EMP would mess them up.

Tom Tildrum
11-30-2012, 10:36 AM
Note that we can put a porthole (http://community.seattletimes.nwsource.com/archive/?date=19930504&slug=1699346) into the side (http://mkburton.wordpress.com/2007/05/10/fistulated-cows/) of a cow (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dY4QkhwQMRA). (That last link is video).

Inner Stickler
11-30-2012, 11:35 AM
One reason why I'd never, ever have a nipple ring. Not that I'm much of a fighter anyway.At least with a nipple ring, if you knew you were going into battle tomorrow, you could take it out. I admit, ambushes would still be a problem. I do find it amusing that it's on your list of reasons not to have a nipple ring, though.

Really Not All That Bright
11-30-2012, 11:46 AM
Ever since I saw Airheads. Admittedly it appears well below "why the hell would I want one in the first place?" on the list. :)

CalMeacham
11-30-2012, 11:57 AM
Note that we can put a porthole (http://community.seattletimes.nwsource.com/archive/?date=19930504&slug=1699346) into the side (http://mkburton.wordpress.com/2007/05/10/fistulated-cows/) of a cow (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dY4QkhwQMRA). (That last link is video).

They had one of these ages ago at the Rutgers College Agricultural Research Station when I was a kid.*














*We called it The Piggy Farm.

WhyNot
11-30-2012, 12:15 PM
I recall a news story I read years ago, about a kid who fell on a pencil and impaled his heart with it. Fortunately his mother was a nurse who kept her head (probably not easy under the circumstances), saw the pencil moving in and out with her son's heartbeat, and called emergency rather than yanking the pencil out. So we have an actual heart plug scenario, although an inadvertent one.


And also a temporary one. I think that were we to try and maintain an externally removable plug to the heart, the nurses would be placing bets on which would kill the patient first: infection or a clot.

Holes/plugs in stomachs and intestines are possible because those are parts of the body with immune defenses against pathogens. They're "used to" germs getting in there, and they can fight them off very well. Holes in, say, the bladder, tend to be more troublesome, and often get infections, despite careful use of sterile technique to keep them as clean as possible. A hole through the heart with an externally accessible plug (which means we also need a hole through the skin, muscle, bone and pericardium) is putting holes in lots of body parts that are sterile by nature, and don't deal well with bacterial invasion.

Also, clots. Clots form around stents and scar tissue and artificial valves. I shudder to think what sort of clotting could happen around an actual plug.

Smart mom, though. Also, if your kid is running around with a toothbrush and falls and impales herself through the back of the throat with the toothbrush, don't pull it out. Get her to the ER first. Actually, pretty much any time anything larger than an eyelash is impaled in anyone, don't pull it out. It can be very hard to estimate the size of what's under the skin by what you see sticking out. And even an inch long bit of wood in a foot could be pinching off a or plugging up a torn blood vessel big enough to cause dangerous bleeding when the foreign object is removed. Best to do that in a nice clean ER room where they have sterile clamps and suture kits.

Learjeff
11-30-2012, 12:19 PM
Note that we can put a porthole (http://community.seattletimes.nwsource.com/archive/?date=19930504&slug=1699346) into the side (http://mkburton.wordpress.com/2007/05/10/fistulated-cows/) of a cow (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dY4QkhwQMRA). (That last link is video).For a human subject in 1822, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexis_St._Martin