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File:Meet the medic surgery 1705.jpg

Heavy: "Should I be awake for this?"

Medic: "Vell, no. But as long as you are, could you hold your rib cage open a bit? I can't... seem to..."

Heavy: [Screams]

Medic: "Oh, don't be such a baby... ribs grow back!" {{[[[Two-Faced Aside]] to pet dove}}] "No zey don't."

Surgeries are dangerous and delicate things. There's a reason why "brain surgeon" is slang for "genius"- they have to spend hours carefully maneuvering minute instruments and any mistake can cost their patient's life or worse.

Naturally, expect this aspect of medicine to be thrown away in the name of comedy: the nurse will give the surgeon a hammer and he'll immediately proceed to whack away violently, then an axe and proceed to hack away, then a drill, then a chainsaw, then an eggbeater, then...

If anaesthesia is administered, it's either by a sledgehammer to the head or copious amounts of booze.

Don't expect to see what's going on with the patient during the operation or an explanation on why piercing his head is going to help with his Hiccup Hijinks, but he'll step away from the operation room completely healthy and his medical problem will be gone (or at least, he won't be horribly mutilated).

More rarely, this can also be Played for Drama. The trope might be justified if the surgery takes place before the 20th century, for instance, or under field conditions (see Real Life). Whatever the reason, it's never pretty-- pray they'll go for a Discretion Shot.

Examples of Meatgrinder Surgery include:


  • In Afro Samurai, when Jinno is turned into a cyborg. This might qualify as Black Comedy, or the cartoonish nature of the scene might make it worse.

Board Games

  • The board game Operation, naturally. The game's implication is made obvious during commercials.


  • Monty Python's The Meaning of Life features two "surgeons" forcibly harvesting organs from a man just because he's got an organ donor card. Mostly offscreen but obviously Meatgrinder Surgery.

 Man: "Mr Jones? We've come for you liver."

Mr. Jones: "But I'm using it right now."

  • This trope is common in The Three Stooges shorts, especially the hammer anesthetic.


  • Standard medical practice in Discworld's Ankh-Morpork is hitting the patient over the head with a hammer. The only real doctor in the city (Dr. Lawn from Night Watch) is seen as crazy for worrying about things like sanitation, sterilization, and the survival of his patients. One of the reasons that, prior to Night Watch, the most employed physician in the city was Doughnut Jimmy, a horse vet. After all, a good racehorse is expensive and a big earner, so Jimmy could choose between keeping his patients alive or waking up in a bag on the Ankh.
    • Ankh-Morpork is also the home of the the delightful new form of medicine known as "retrophrenology"
  • Eric Flint's book 1812: The Rivers of War provides an excellent example of this, which was Truth in Television at the time. The patient denies the issued anaestetic, which is raw Navy rum (he has a bottle of emergency laudanum packed away, which he uses), but he knows that refusing the anaesthetic the surgeon tried to give him would be good for his reputation regardless. Also, a quote:

  "Few lumberjacks wielded a saw as vigorously as an Army surgeon after a major battle."

  • The Mash surgeons referred to what they were doing as "meatball surgery" -- doing quick (but hopefully not too dirty) surgery, keeping the patient alive but leaving follow-ups to the better-equipped Evac hospitals. Naturally, many of the plots involved the protagonists trying to avert or subvert this trope, but it still arose from time to time.

  Hawkeye: Our general attitude around here is that we want to play par surgery on this course. Par is a live patient. We're not sweet swingers, and if we've gotta kick it in with our knees to get a par that's how we do it.

  • This trope is zig-zagged in the Temeraire series. Human medical treatment is standard for the Napoleonic Wars, however the tools used by dragon surgeons could easily pass for melee weapons... but then given the scale of their patients most of the injuries that can be treated by human physicians are relatively superficial.

Live Action TV

  • This type was used quite a bit in Monty Python's Flying Circus.
  • In The Muppet Show, Rowlf occasionally gets to begin such an operation in the "Veterinarian's Hospital" sketches.
  • Comes up in Sharpe once or twice, set as it is in the Napoleonic Wars. Sharpe himself removes a man's shattered arm with a sword (it's easier to stop the bleeding from one large wound than lots of little ones) and Harper pulls out one of his own teeth with pliers.


Tabletop Games

  • This trope is used in Warhammer 40000 by Ork doctors, the painboyz (also known as Doks, or Mad Doks). Some don't even bother to use anesthetic at all, preferring to have their patient squirming and kicking so they know he's still alive. Orks are so inhumanly tough that they not only survive, but usually fully recover very quickly.

 Mad Dok: Now this is gonna 'urt a lot but you'll be bettah, you'll see!...

  • Magic: The Gathering has the Goblin Chirurgeon ("Chirurgeon" is a middle English term for surgeon), who kills live goblins to make sure other creatures can live. One art has one sawing away at a goblin's leg to give to another goblin who has lost theirs. The goblin getting his leg hacked off is awake at the time.
    • Also implied by another Goblin in Goblin Medics, specifically in its flavor text, a perversion of the Hippocratic Oath: "First, do some harm."


  • A skit frequently used at summer camps is all about this, with everyone standing behind a sheet so only the shadows can be seen. There are several variations depending on who is performing it and where, but the one this troper saw included the following:
    • The doctors (a normal stethoscope/lab coat doctor and a tribal witch-doctor) initially stated that neither had performed surgery before. It was clear that they had no idea what they were doing.
    • The patient was knocked out by being hit over the head with a sledgehammer and woken up by being hit again.
    • The chainsaw-as-surgical-instrument subtrope made an appearance.
    • The doctors accidentally removed the patient's heart, which bounced around for a few seconds and then exploded.
    • Despite the doctors making a huge mess and accomplishing nothing, the patient exclaimed, "I feel much better now!" at the end.

Video Games

  • The flash game Amateur Surgeon is based all around this since the main character is a Back-Alley Doctor with a talent for improvising. Why use a scalpel when you have a pizza cutter? Lighters can cauterize pretty well, can't they? Surely a Chainsaw would make for a perfect bonesaw, right?
  • The Team Fortress 2 video Meet the Medic. Roughly half the video involves the RED Medic performing surgery on the Heavy, in a procedure involving a device (which, as it turns out, enables the Übercharge in-game) getting shoved onto Heavy's still-beating heart, said heart exploding and being replaced with a "Mega Baboon" heart, and Medic pushing the organ into the Heavy's chest cavity so hard he breaks off a rib. All while the Heavy is awake, mind you.
    • Not to mention he allows his pet doves to roam the room during operations. Archimedes, pictured above, even likes to hang out inside patients' ribcages. The only thing the Medic finds objectionable about this is that "It's filthy in there!".
    • Mind you, the Medic's nigh-magical Medigun, plus the Cartoon Physics of the Team Fortress 2 universe pretty much allows him to throw caution out the window.
    • The Medic's idea of "proper surgical garb" is whatever he happens to be wearing at the time. In Meet The Medic, "surgical garb" is a sweater vest and shirt. Oddly enough, he only puts on a labcoat and gloves when he's preparing for battle.
  • A non-comedic example occurs in FEAR 2: Project Origin, while Michael Beckett is undergoing surgery to awaken his Harbinger powers, he has a hallucination in which demonic creatures in surgical uniforms claw and hack at his flesh.

Western Animation

  • Used in Cow and Chicken for plastic surgery during a plastic surgery contest.
  • Also used for amateur plastic surgery in the Aqua Teen Hunger Force episode "Super Model".
  • Futurama -- Professor Farnsworth decides the best way to carry out Bender's delicate gender reassignment is with a sledgehammer. Yeah, he's a robot, but a sledgehammer.
  • Wilbur in The Rescuers Down Under is threatened with Meatgrinder Surgery by a group of mice, before he decides he feels fine and decides to check out early.
  • Dr. Nick Riviera is basically the living avatar of this trope.
    • Moe is also revealed to be an unlicensed and unhygienic surgeon in one episode.
  • Kenny gets one of these in South Park Bigger Longer and Uncut, after his attempt to set his fart on fire literally backfires. They end up replacing his heart with a baked potato.

Real Life

  • Brain surgery involves drilling a hole in someone's head. The drill is pretty much the same as the one you use at home, just a little more fancy. At least it looks and acts mostly the same.
  • Amputating limbs is done with electric saw. It also looks and acts a lot like a regular hand tool.
  • A few prehistoric skulls have been found with trepanations, or holes cut through the skull. This was of course done with primitive implements, yet the bones show signs of long-term healing, which means the patient survived the surgery.
  • Battlefield surgery until surprisingly recently could be like this. They would amputate with a saw and cauterize with a branding iron with no anesthetic other than rum and opium. Which wasn't always given.
    • This is a popular myth, but not exactly based in historical fact. Ether was available as early as the Civil War, and the use of forceps to tie off the blood vessels and arteries was invented in Ancient Egypt and rediscovered in the 1600s. Battlefield surgery wasn't pretty, but it wasn't "biting the bullet" either.
  • The removal of wisdom teeth involves a tool that looks very much like a stainless-steel chisel.
  • Orthopedic surgery can appear this way, with the use of power tools, hand tools, and hardware similar to those seen in a workshop (although sterile and much more expensive), as well as the use of what appears to be strenuous amounts of physical pulling and tugging by surgical staff (to ensure proper alignment of joints and bones, etc.).
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