Nitroglycerin Heart Patches Explode

posted: 04/11/12
Read more Read less
As seen in "MythBusters: Speed Cameras."

Finding: BUSTED

Explanation: In 1992, the American Journal of Emergency Medicine published an explosive report about two patients wearing nitroglycerin heart patches whom doctors revived with electrical defibrillators. The electrical shots to the heart left minor, nonlethal burn marks on the patients when the electricity from the defibrillator arced to the nitropatches.

But MythBusters Kari Byron, Grant Imahara and Tory Belleci busted the notion that defibrillators can spark the nitroglycerin in the patches and set off a lethal explosion. Though the test wasn't explicitly based on the 1992 report, it involves the most drastic possible outcome if a defibrillator rubs a heart patch the wrong way.

Grant masterminded a DIY defibrillator, while Tory and Kari molded a ballistics gel dummy with the same electrical conductivity of human tissue and slapped a plastic nitroglycerin patch on its chest. After the MythBusters set off several defibrillations with increasing amounts of voltage, the electricity failed to arc to the nitroglycerin patch.

Even an old-school aluminum-backed heart patch didn't dynamite a hole in the dummy's heart. The 1992 report noted that similar electrical incidents are extremely rare, and the busted myth indicates that defibrillator detonations are practically impossible.

More on