With the hype of the latest chapter of the Dark Knight Trilogy (which hits theaters in a couple of weeks), I came across this fascinating article that discusses the implementation of chronic pain management into The Dark Knight Rises.

While not much is known about Batman’s latest foe, Bane, it has been expressed that the use for this bad guy’s vest and mask will not stay true to the original comic. Rather than being used to ingest venom that gives him super-strength, he uses it as a drug device to supply him with a gas to suppress chronic pain.

In the article titled, “How Bane’s Mask Might Work in The Dark Knight Rises” by Colin Liotta, Dr. Michael Leong (Clinic Chief at the Stanford Pain Medicine Center) and his team give their expert opinions as to how this mask works and why it would be needed.

In the article, Dr. Leong and his team express that Bane’s scar could be from such procedures as a cervical laminectomy or extensive cervical fusion, and that it “looks like Bane has had significant trauma to his cervical spine and corrective surgery to stabilize the area, perhaps causing residual chronic pain.”

When asked about the tubing that connects the vest and mask, Dr. Leong compares it to the intrathecal or intraspinal catheters used by pain medicine specialists to deliver drugs to the spinal cord and brain, such as the devices made by Medtronic.

The team also speculates that, “looking at the tube in relation to Bane’s surgical scars, the tube could have a chemical Venom ‘infused in the intraspinal fluid which would account for his extreme tolerance of pain and possibly increased neurological function with the side-effects of behavioral changes – extreme aggression, maybe even delusions and paranoia.’”

Dr. Leong further states that:

From a true medical standpoint, many of these compounds discussed above are used in clinical practice. Aerosolized opioids (morphine) and steroids have been used in treating pain and intractable asthma. Toxin compounds are injected near the spine for pain relief with intraspinal drug delivery systems underneath the skin. A drug called Ziconotide (Prialt) is an N type Calcium Channel blocker that is derived from a sea snail toxin, Conus Magus, that treats cancer and noncancer pain resistant to other therapies. Movies, such as ‘The Dark Knight Rises’, may have some sensational pictures but often have some key elements from medicine that exist right at this moment. (“How Bane’s Mask Might Work in The Dark Knight Rises.” Liotta, 2012).

This article is an absolute must-read. Hollywood is notorious for taking things to an illogical extreme to create a “wow” factor. It is great to hear of a blockbuster taking a real medical standpoint into account when creating such a complex fictional character. Hat’s off to Christopher Nolan. And thank you to Colin Liotta and Dr. Leong, et al. for a fascinating analysis.

To read the full article, click here.

For more information regarding intrathecal drug deliveries, visit Hartley Medical’s Knowledge Center by clicking here.