Reel To Real: Can A Syringe Full Of Air Really Do You In?

You'd have to be pretty unlucky, our expert says.

You’ve seen it in dozens of films: A needle attached to an empty syringe is plunged into an unwitting victim and a bubble of air is injected into the bloodstream, promptly — and mysteriously — causing his demise. But can a little air really do you in?

The Reel Story: That cinematic bucket-kicker returned to theaters last weekend in the current box-office champ, “The Ring 2.” Yep, the video, the well and Samara — the girl with the creepy walk — are back, unleashing their own brand of scariness in a new location (a sleepy Oregon town) on the still freaked-out Rachel (Naomi Watts) and her son, Aidan (David Dorfman).

Like the sleeper-hit original, things unfold slowly and terrifyingly, creating an atmosphere of chilling dread. The cold dampness of the backdrop seems to seep through both films (the sun never shines when Samara is in town) and you might find yourself pulling your jacket around you.

However, the sequel makes some jumps the first film didn’t (the cursed video isn’t the only mode of attack this time). Things get heavy — and freaky — and a doctor ends up pulling a large syringe from a drawer, calmly jamming it into her own neck and pumping her veins full of air. With a peaceful smile, she breathes her last breath and dies a disturbingly quiet death. So we’re left to wonder once again, can a shot of air really kill someone?

The Real Story: Possibly, but only a real tool would test it out.

Bubbles of air in the circulating blood can cause death or brain damage, if the air bubble cuts off the blood supply to your brain.

However, according to Dr. Barry Wolcott MD, FACP, senior vice president of clinical affairs for WebMD Health, “In general, the small amount of air that can be introduced by a typical syringe is not large enough to cause a fatal air embolism (an air embolism is similar to a blood clot).”

Dr. Wolcott explained, “the large amounts of air that can quickly enter through a large plastic catheter which is open to the air — like those placed in the neck or under the collarbone during resuscitations in hospitals and at accident scenes — can be fatal, especially if the patient inhales forcefully while the catheter is open to the air.”

So it certainly helps the film’s case that the suicidal doctor in “The Ring 2″ used a really big syringe — something better suited to Mr. Ed than your average blood test, it seemed. Maybe she just didn’t want to be around for “The Ring 3.”

Check out everything we’ve got on “The Ring Two.”

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