Take the 2-minute tour ×
Science Fiction & Fantasy Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for science fiction and fantasy enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

The ARC reactor and electromagnet chest piece are originally there to prevent pieces of shrapnel from piercing his heart. That happens because he was fixed by a Chinese/Afghan doctor who doesn't have anything else to do it properly.

However, when he got back to the US, why is it difficult to get rid that shrapnel? Why not just get rid of the shrapnel and live normally?

Hell, I am sure someone like Tony wouldn't have problem getting heart donor.

share|improve this question
    
Great Question... :) –  Sachin Shekhar Oct 12 '12 at 14:57
    
Watch Iron Man 3, it will give new fuel to your question ;) –  Sentry May 3 '13 at 9:59

6 Answers 6

up vote 40 down vote accepted

I think this is a case where we have to suspend disbelief to be entertained.

The first thing we have to suspend disbelief for is that they were able to perform surgery on Tony Stark's open chest in a cave in the middle of a desert. No sterilized room here! Not to mention the size of the hole in Stark's chest! See how Pepper Potts can put her hand in his chest? No idea how they could have rearranged his organs to make room!

Tony Stark's chest in Iron Man movie

Second, the arc reactor created is also capable of great magnitudes of energy to power an Iron Man suit, something that is pure science fiction. The chest piece is also essential because it keeps the shrapnel, or fragments, from killing Tony by entering his heart. The shrapnels must be of such a small size that even the cave desert surgery could not remove all of it.

So maybe we really need to believe that the shrapnel can truly not be removed, else Tony will die.

Well, with all this sci-fy and technology stuff, why not also believe that they would have the technology to fix Tony Stark all up when he is back in the US? Say some kind way to diffuse his blood or some other fantastic surgery to remove all the shrapnel. Very true. To which I would answer:

The chest piece also serves a purpose for the story and character. It's part of the drama that if our hero doesn't have it in place, he will die. It's a physical weakness. And who's to say that Tony doesn't want someone operating on him, when he's unconscious and vulnerable, who could then simply steal his arc reactor technology? In the screenshot above, Tony is having Ms. Potts change out his chest piece in his own lab, not a doctor in a hospital.

Or even he's not the type that wants to be fixed or cured. He is a genius, superhero, playboy billionaire with narcissistic tendencies. He may not be like us in thinking of simply getting it fixed.

It also adds emphasis to when Tony Stark says, "I am Iron Man".

share|improve this answer
18  
It's important to remember that when the Iron Man comic first came into being, something like a heart transplant was not possible, even experimentally. I believe this is a nod to keeping a part of the original storyline intact, and thus our suspension of disbelief as sunpech suggests. –  BBlake Sep 25 '12 at 13:00
7  
It's desert, not dessert - or did they operate over dinner? –  Jonas Sep 25 '12 at 16:28
4  
@Jonas Thanks, fixed. I hear they were having baklava. –  sunpech Sep 25 '12 at 16:35
12  
I think I've pointed out on here before, that even with the most advanced medicine in existence currently no reputable doctor would ever attempt that surgery on Tony. There exists no technology capable of finding the type of microscopic shrapnel that would be lodged in his thoracic region. CAT scans cannot find them because they are too small. Same goes for x-ray's. A MRI could very well find the shards, but the magnets would pull the shrapnel out, destroying most of his lungs and heart in the process. No doctor will just open him up and go poking around for tiny shards of metal. –  Gabe Willard Sep 25 '12 at 20:30
3  
@Izkata Clearly, inventing a new element to use as a catalyst for his handheld fusion reactor was a far easier choice than inventing a non-magnetic body scan that could detect microscopic shards of metal in his chest. :P Although, honestly, I'd argue by that point Tony had more fully "become" Iron Man. Fixing his heart would mean he could lose the reactor, but I think the reactor meant more to him than just something to keep him alive. –  Gabe Willard Sep 26 '12 at 6:10

Considering that other people trying to get their hands on the arc reactor is a major plot point in the first film Mr. Stark here might not be too keen on being unconscious with one on offer. Not that the other avengers couldn't guard him or something but again they did make an entire film about his trust issues. This did actually annoy me, I'm told in the comics it's also a pacemaker type device that is actually referred to as powering his heart, i.e. suit runs low on juice, body runs low on oxygen, they kind of show it in the films but it's not explicitly stated. Rearranging organs would be no issue though, he was probably missing a bit of lung from the injuries anyway, even if not, think about when they crack the chest for heart surgery, if you put something solid in to keep the ribs apart there's loads of room. I'd be more worried the long term effects of having metal inside the body, (not just the palladium but the canister too).

share|improve this answer

Now IRON MAN 3 has been released, we can see that part of him apparently didn't want to, as there was no technical reason preventing him.

share|improve this answer

In order to fit the arc into Tony's chest, it is most likely that he either had a few ribs, or simply just parts of a few ribs taken out. After finally healing from having his arc removed, Tony would have a vulnerable spot above his heart where his ribs used to be. Also, seeing as the shrapnel is moving through Tony's veins in order to get to his heart, someone would have to cut open his veins to remove the tiny pieces of metal, somehow keep Tony from bleeding out, and would then have to sew his veins shut without blocking them off. I'm sure that there are more problems than these, but seeing as for the past week or so, I have kept up a schedule that would make even Tony Stark proud. However, I am not a genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist, my brain just isn't currently functioning at full capacity...

share|improve this answer
    
The shrapnel was in his heart not his veins, specifically his Atrial Septum –  Monty129 Apr 24 '13 at 17:28

As Iron Man 3 points out, he just wants it to be part of him. He likes the feeling part of Iron Man is parted on him. Hmm leaving shrapnel there also serves good reason, rather just plainly planted - instead there's some "destiny" sense of purpose. There's also another purpose to remind himself of his savior and "creator", his reason becoming Iron Man. Surely that makes a good drama line, ended nicely by cleaning it out.

share|improve this answer
    
The fact that he has it removed at the end of Iron Man 3 is pretty good evidence that he doesn't want it to be a part of him that badly. Further, the palladium was killing him during Iron Man 2. Even if he wanted it to be a part of him to remind himself of whatever, the fact that it was literally killing him was plenty of incentive to remove it if he could. –  phantom42 May 9 '13 at 16:11

Actually in the comics he does have a heart transplant, right before he got 'Happy' Hogan in Tales of Suspense #45 in September 1963.

share|improve this answer

protected by Community May 6 '13 at 10:59

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality answers, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site.

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.