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First Aid/survivability of stab wounds


Hey Marcus. A little while back I read a news report about a 19 year old girl who got fatally stabbed by her uncle. The weapon used was some kind of knife. I read that she died from a single stab wound to her gut with a depth of 22cm. I was wondering about these kinds of injuries. How important is the depth of the wound in terms of the likelihood that it would be fatal? Would someone be generally more likely to survive a 20cm stab than a 10cm one for example? Also how important is the location of the injury? So if it was an abdominal stab what would be the best or worst areas in terms of surviving?

Hello Rob,

It's not so much the depth but the placement of the blade. There's a book called "The House of GOD" about a medical resident's experiences. A quote from the book goes "There is no organ in the body that cannot be reached with a one and a half inch needle and a good strong arm". The large vessels of the neck, armpit and groin are within an inch of the surface (maybe even less at points). A 2 inch needle placed through the skin at the xiphoid process and directed up toward the left shoulder is commonly used to drain the sack around the heart of excess fluid. A standard steak knife is sufficiently long enough to reach the large aorta and venicava that lye's along the anterior spine if the victims belly is not unusually large. Just a nick if one of the large vessels is enough to allow bleeding to go uncontrolled leading to death.

I hope that answered your question well enough.


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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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