In the movie

O.K., one of my favorite mindless, tasteless, lots of action films is the Nicolas Cage/Sean Connery movie “The Rock.” There is one minor part of the film that has always had me wondering: There is a kind of shot that Cage’s character injects into his heart to keep the super toxin from liquidfying him. Any idea if this is based in reality? I don’t really think so, this seems to be just something to cover a hole in the plot, but you never know. The only thing I can think of is that the syringe contained something that slows the body’s metabolism, but this may not prevent a toxin from “eating” a person up if the chemical is just plain caustic(compared to some poisons that must be ingested and react with elements and/or compounds found inside the body).

I imagine an injection directly into the heart would be the fastest way to distribute a substance through the body. For a fast-acting toxin it may be the only way to prevent death in time.

But wouldn’t that damage the heart? If you poked a hole in it, You’d get a leaky heart…

O.K., I’ll give you that, but the toxin in question reacts with a person’s skin. The skin’s outer layer is not connected to the circulator system because it is made up of dead cells. (Yes, I know the skin has blood vessels, but I’m talking about the very outside.) So, when exposed to nasty stuff, this part of you will be damaged first, with or without a protective shot. Also, it still takes time for a substance to get to all of your body, there could be damage done before the “safety” stuff gets there. This shot seems to give instant protection. But, hey, its all fiction anyway. :slight_smile:

Aha! This is one part of a movie that has always irritated me. Great movie, BTW. Atropine is what they were injecting themselves with, and that is real. Military forces around the world use it to combat nerve gasses and other toxins. Basicaly what it does is increase your heart rate by a massive amount to remove the toxin from your bloodstream faster. Sounds like it would kill you faster, but evidentaly it works fairly well. Now, about the injecting into the heart thing… that ain’t how it’s done. :slight_smile: They have these spring-loaded, massive, pressurized, auto-injecting needles that you slap into your thigh or buttocks. Heart injection would be a bad idea, because anyone with common sense would probably hesitate too long before stabbing themselves in the heart, and die from the toxin. Also, after injecting one’s self with Atropine, there is a second injection that is used after a specific time that is actualy an antidote for the Atropine! Atropine is pretty nasty stuff all by itself, and, having experienced it’s effects once (for medical reasons, not gas), I can tell you that you WANT that second shot. Be careful what you sniff… :wink:

Wow, that Atropine stuff is reall? Cool. There still holes in the movie though. Cage’s character doesn’t get the second shot needed to counter act the Atropine. I can see that I need to go back to school, how can increasing the heart rate negate the effects of a toxin? Some poisons are well known for doing this, but I can’t think of a name of one right now, but I know its a chemical derived from the foxglove plant. A lot of toxin processing is done by the liver, so how can an increased heart rate help this? Enzymes all over the body do amazing things, but they take time, seconds for sure, but when you have been exposed to some nasty stuff that can burn through you in milliseconds, time is a major factor.

About the shot to the heart thing: I thought adrenaline shot to restart a heart went straight into the heart. I think I read this somewhere, but it is best known from another movie,“Pulp Fiction.” The heart is a muscel and can take some small punctures. Think about when you get a shot, especially one of those deep ones, the needle goes through muscel, but you can still use that part of your body.

Well, as I understand it, in the case of toxins where atropine would be used, increasing the heart rate moves the toxin to be processed quicker. In situations like these, the longer the toxin remains unprocessed by the body, the more damage it can do. This is measured in seconds. So, you see, atropine really isn’t a “cure” per se… it just prevents death. Any time you get hit by a nerve agent, there will be some damage. Atropine just minimizes that damage. I think the whole atropine thing in the rock was more for artistic liscense and “gross factor” than accuracy. Worked on me!
You are right about the Adrenalin shot being in the heart. They have to do this because it is most effective when applied directly to the muscle that needs it. Anyway, in the case of a heart stoppage, they would HAVE to inject it directly into the heart because there would be no blood flow. The heart can withstand a small puncture like that, but it takes a lot of time to recover from.

Wyvern, it looks like your topic line got truncated there-- That’ll happen if you use “double quotation marks” and then preview it. I imagine that the topic line started
In the movie “The Rock”,
but I’m not quite sure how much or what you wanted to say after that. Drop myself or another moderator an e-mail, and we’ll fix it for you.

Atropine does not work primarily by increasing heart rate. It may well lead to an accelarated heart rate, but only as a side effect.
In simplified form neuro-toxins work by binding to receptors on nerve cells causing them to fire continuously. This leads to nerve death, a lack of control over muscle action and ultimately death due to exhaustion and asphyxiation.
Atropine counters this effect by binding to the same receptors that the neuro-toxin targets but without causing the nerves to fire.
Trouble is atropine actually prevents the nerves from firing altogether, leading to a whole suite of other problems including paralysis in extreme cases. But atropine will not lead to death under normal circumstances and no antidote is needed.
Cage’s character in the rock was starting to display some of the symptoms of atropine poisoning within the limits of his acting ability (uncontrolled movements etc).

Thanks for straightening that out, Gaspode! I knew it had to be something in addition to accelerated heart rate, but I was only reiterating what I was told. Good to know. You are correct about atropine not needing an antidote… I guess I made it sound like one was needed. The government does issue one to soldiers, at least.
As far as Cage’s symptoms go… well sometimes it seems he could be a victim of that poisoning even when he’s NOT acting!

Okay, what bugged me about this movie (one thing, at least) was the way that they handwaved the dosage issue- twice. Nerve gas (of any sort) is nasty stuff, and there are a bunch of varieties (Sarin is the most common, but not the easiest to make). The idea of being able to treat it with a single “one size fits all” syringe is ludicrous even before you start considering body weight. In particular, the standard treatment in “battlefield medicine” conditions is to administer atropine until signs of atropine poisoning appear, then administer secondary treatment for the atropine complications (this is what Gaspode and catmandu42 are talking about).In controlled conditions,like the lab in the first part of the movie, they would simply administer the proper atropine dosage by weight and monitor his condition.Either way, nobody could medicate themselves with a single prepared syringe, not and have a chance of surviving.

Yeah, and did you see the size of that syringe in the movie?? Nothing like shooting up with half a quart of atropine to get you started in the morning! :slight_smile: