"Why is it that whenever someone wakes up in a hospital, the FIRST thing they do is pull the IV out of their arm? Maybe it was KEEPING THEM ALIVE!"
The hero - or villain - has been hospitalized. When they come to, they've got better things to do than sit in the recovery ward for hours and hours - the world's at peril! They dramatically yank off their IV as they're informed of another attack - especially
if the bad guys are knocking down hospital doors, guns blazing. They've got no time to bleed. That this is against Doctor's Orders
is always implied, and sometimes explicitly stated.
In real life, doing this has a pretty good risk of the wound getting infected, as it directly goes into your bloodstream, and requires some gauze, tape, and pressure to stop the bleeding, on top of whatever medicine in there being the medicine that's most likely beneficial to them. It also requires a gentle pull, not a yank.
May be related to Afraid of Needles
, and represents an amusing subversion: there is no needle
in an established IV, as it's only used to introduce the catheter into the vein, and is removed and safely disposed of immediately thereafter.
Often followed by The Patient Has Left the Building
. See also: Worst Aid
, Television Is Trying to Kill Us
, Artistic License - Medicine
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Anime and Manga
- Yu-Gi-Oh!. Bakura, a character who has a spirit possessing him on and off, is stabbed and passes out. He wakes up in a hospital as the spirit, who promptly knocks out the old man who was watching over him, stands up, violently rips the IV out of his arm, and sets off to find the guy he's planning to defeat.
- When Lady Une comes out of a coma in Gundam Wing, she pulls out her IV and goes to rescue Treize.
- Sankarea. Chihiro sustains injuries to his neck serious enough to need an IV and when he wakes up, he gets out of bed fast enough for the IV to come off, but feels nothing.
- One Piece. Right before the fateful battle in Marineford, Whitebeard pulled off all of his life support equipment since he didn't want anyone else to see how age and sickness had taken their toll on him.
- An offscreen example happens in Fruits Basket. Rin wakes up in a hospital after collapsing and, in a haze, wanders off. When the nurse sees that she's missing, there's a shot of her slightly-bloody IV needle lying on her bed. Presumably she didn't notice any pain because she was that delirious.
- Iron Man: Tony Stark not only pulls out an IV, but also his own respirator tubes.
- Desolation Jones: Jones was panicking when he pulled out his IV, but a year's worth of trauma kind of justifies it.
- The Walking Dead: Justified (by the Zombie Apocalypse) and deconstructed. When Rick Grimes does it, the wound noticeably continues to bleed throughout the first issue.
- In Resident Evil: Apocalypse, Alice wakes up alone in a hospital Late To The Zombie Apocalypse, and the first thing she does is yank out the IV. Albeit she does seem to feel pain.
- Shows up in Halloween II (2009) (2009). Justified, as it happens during a nightmare sequence.
- The Bride does this in Kill Bill during the hospital sequence after killing Buck's latest "customer," who he'd been pimping out her comatose body to, just before getting into position (with no working legs, mind you) to ambush and take revenge upon Buck.
- Played for Laughs, naturally, in Airplane!. There's a young girl being transported to a hospital, whose IV line keeps getting knocked out by the stewardess playing the (borrowed) nun's guitar.
- In The Matrix, Neo has a similar setup, but fed directly into a port in his arm (and facing the wrong way). Removing it does seem to cause pain though.
- Inception: The dream machine appears to involve an IV-like device, which appears to be simply pulled out when not needed.
- Raises Fridge Logic issues as to how the dream machine could feasibly be used on someone without their ever realizing it, if their arm is bandaged and sore when they wake up.
- Saito is shown checking his arm after waking up from the extraction. There's no mark and he feels no pain. The fact that Cobb and his crew were able to do this without leaving a trace clearly impresses him. How they do it isn't explained, but it's clear they've developed a way to do it painlessly and without marking the target.
- Looking at the schematics of the device itself, one will notice the 'needle' is more like a pair of very small fangs, presumably small enough to go between the cells.
- Jim of 28 Days Later does this, though not right away. It's not like anyone's coming to tend to him, and we see him wrapping a bandage around his arm where the IV had been.
- Harry Brown of the eponymous film removes his monitors and goes home after waking in hospital following an emphysema attack.
- In X-Men, Wolverine wakes up at the medical room of the X-Men base and promptly rips out the needles. Doesn't bleed thanks to his hyper regeneration.
- James Bond does this when escaping from the MI6 medical facility in Die Another Day.
- Bob Lee Swagger does this to himself in Shooter; he's been shot and knows he's going into shock from blood loss, so he improvises an IV set using aquarium tubing, plastic soda bottles, and a basting needle. Once he's bolused himself with a liter or so of homemade sugar-salt solution, he yanks the line out and continues on his merry Bad Ass way.
Live Action TV
- Averted in an episode of Moonlighting, where a hospitalized gangster gets into a fight and drags his IV drip around with him. Played for Laughs, obviously.
- Faith in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, although in her case the Bad Assery (and ability to walk immediately after eight months in a coma) is justified by her being a Slayer.
- A variation on the theme happened in an episode of House, with a serial killer who yanked out his breathing tube.
- Naturally, any TV series featuring an emergency department will show this at least once; notable examples include Grey's Anatomy and ER.
- The breathing tube variant also appears in an episode of Royal Pains. Jill asks Divya to have them take her breathing tube out; Divya explains she can't, and so Jill gives her a distraction so she can remove it herself.
- In the 00's remake of Battlestar Galactica, Starbuck does this when breaking out of the Cylon farm.
- In an episode of Psych, Henry Spencer, not wanting his son to embarrass him by this whole "barely poisoned" foolishness (thus resulting in his son languishing in a hospital rather than solving the case) yanks the IV out of Shawn's arm. Notably, it has quite painful results.
- On the first season of America's Next Top Model, Adrianne Curry got extremely sick and was taken to the hospital. She was told that unless she went to the photoshoot and turned in a photo for the judges to see, she would be eliminated. She was so alarmed at the thought of losing, in the course of getting out of the hospital bed, she dramatically ripped the IV out of her arm..... and regretted it almost immediately due to the pain. She later had a bruise covering the entire length of her arm that was so extreme, even make-up couldn't fully cover it, and it had to be photoshopped out.
- One episode of Scrubs had JD attached to an IV to cure his hangover. When he tries to run away from Dr. Cox, he falls over and the IV gets ripped out.
- Another episode mentions that the nurses take great care when removing the IV, saying that removing it without bruising is a great skill.
- In Orange Is The New Black, Tiffany "Pennsatucky" Doggett does this. She's at Planned Parenthood or some such clinic, just about to receive abortion #5, but having second thoughts about going through with this one (because her boyfriend/husband/whatever the hell he was kind of wanted her to keep it, even trying to persuade her to do so by telling her she could get government assistance.) She ends up going out, taking her partner's shotgun, and shooting the nurse that made a snarky comment about how many abortions Ms. Doggett had received. The pro-lifers out front protesting think she did it to support their cause.
- In Angels In America, when Roy Cohn is in the hospital for treatment regarding his suffering from HIV, he accidentally knocks out his IV while flailing in anger at a visitor. This does cause him pain as well as cause blood to come out, which the nurse hurries to clean up and warns the visitor to wash off of himself ASAP.
- People can and frequently do attempt and succeed in pulling out their own IVs, as well as more invasive medical devices (Foley catheters, central venous lines, arterial lines, endotracheal tubes, etc). In the case of a basic peripheral IV, frequently this results in some pain and a big mess, as the drip (if any) will keep dripping all over the place, and the site will continue to bleed to varying degrees if it isn't well bandaged. (How much blood may be involved depends on whether the patient has been given any anticoagulant or "blood thinning" medications, as well as the size of the IV "line." For example, a 14-gauge widebore will bleed much more than a 22-gauge pediatric line.) In the vast majority of cases, a pulled IV is no cause for alarm; it just means the staff will have to stick you again to start a new line. The major risk that may be involved arises from abruptly discontinuing any dripped medication the patient may be on, and the time delay before resuming it.
- As most modern indwelling peripheral IVs consist of only a small plastic tube (catheter) sticking into the vein (the actual needle is used only for insertion, the catheter is threaded over it, and then the needle is removed and discarded), there is little risk for further tissue damage from pulling out an IV. Also, IVs inserted the wrong way (as mentioned on this trope page), though definitely not the standard of practice, are sometimes used in real life and can still function.