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First Aid/Questions about shoulder and abdomen stab wounds


QUESTION: Hello, I hope this finds you in good health.

I'm currently working on a crime/detective novel in which the antagonist uses a 3-inch pocket knife as her weapon. When the characters (both male, healthy, in their early/mid 20's) go to apprehend her, she ambushes them. Character A is stabbed once in the right shoulder from behind, with the antagonist quickly wrenching the knife out. Character B is then stabbed once in the abdomen from the front; the antagonist does not hit any of Character B's major arteries or organs, but she leaves the knife protruding from his wound. Both characters are immediately taken to a hospital and treated. If it's not too much trouble, I would like to know:

-What kind of damage could Character A suffer from being stabbed in the shoulder from behind, and how long would he have to stay hospitalised following treatment?

-How long would Character A then be forced to stay at home to recover, before being allowed back to work as a homicide detective?

-How would Character B's abdomen stab wound be treated, and how long would he have to stay in the hospital for observation following this?

Apologies for asking so many questions, but I know very little about medicine. Thank you very much in advance!

ANSWER: Hello Megan,

Character A:  most likely will have some degree of a pneumothorax (a collapsed lung) which will require a chest tube for a couple days and antibiotics. He will probably be in the hospital for 3 to 5 days, then discharged to home where he can recover for maybe 2 weeks before light duty (desk duty). depending on the extent of injury/ internal damage, bleeding, infection... he could possibly be in the hospital up to a couple weeks.. and take up to several months of recovery before he could get back to work.

Character B:  He would need an open laparotomy (open his abdomen) to repair all organs Intestines, urinary tract and blood vessels that have been damaged during the stabbing. He would likely be in the hospital at least 5 days but up to 10 or longer if he had more serious wounds or infection.

Good luck with your story.


---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Hello again Marc, and thank you for replying!
I'm sorry to spring yet more questions onto you, but after reading into a couple of laparotomy experiences I've thought of a two things that didn't cross my mind before. They only concern Character B this time, the man who was stabbed in the abdomen.

-Would he be advised to stick to a certain diet following his surgery, like fluids-only? If so, for how long would that last?

-Would he have been inserted with a urinary catheter to prevent the accumulation of urine in the bladder? And, again if so, how long would it likely remain there before it is removed?

Again, thank you very much for your time!

Hello again Megan,

The catheter would be in during surgery and probably remain in until the patient was able to move himself to the bathroom or use a urinal. (they should be taken out as soon as  possible to avoid infections).

The diet... yes.. probably a liquid diet and gradually add in solid food. I'm not sure of the time span. so I can't really answer how long or the process any better than a google search for the subject (I'm sorry).

Good luck with your story.


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Marcus LaBarbera


I am available to answer most questions related to: first aid, pre- hospital medicine, EMT and Paramedic questions, medical transport, critical care transport, ICU/CCU care, sedation, and medicine in general.


I have worked as a NYS Paramedic since 1993 for both community based ambulance companies and large commercial agencies. I Have experience as bike team commander, and shift supervisor for a commercial ambulance. As a member of the Disaster team I was deployed to Louisiana for 20 days following hurricane Katrina. I worked along side the county Haz-Mat team as a "Tox-Medic" with advanced training in treating injuries from chemical agents. Besides my experience on the on the ambulance I have worked in a number of hospital based offices including dialysis and a sleep lab.

I started my EMS career as a NYS CFR (Certified First Responder)in 1989, an EMT in 1991, a Paramedic since 1993, and a CCU transport paramedic since 2005. I currently hold certification as a: NYS Paramedic, Critical Care Transport Paramedic, ACLS/CPR/PALS certified. Advanced Haz-Mat Life Support certified (AHLS). In the past I have taught CPR and ACLS to my coworkers and the local community.

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