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First Aid/Stab wound to the shoulder.


I'm writing a story where a character is stabbed in the right shoulder from the front. What risks or complications are there with a wound like this? I don't want it to be too serious or have too many long term effects. How would a wound like this be treated and how long would recovery be? Also, how quickly would it bleed? The character gets the injuring during a struggle so would moving around like that make it worse?

Hello Joanna,

A stab wound could have a lot of potential for serious/ life threatening injuries but you're writing the story so you have the option of making it a lucky shot where no major blood vessels or important structures are damaged.

Potential injuries:
laceration of the subclavian artery/ vein which would cause major bleeding that is hard to control.  Damage to the brachial nerve plexus causing severe/ possible reparable nerve damage.  If the blade enters the thoracic cavity it could cause lung collapse with possible bleeding into the chest. If the blade enters the shoulder capsule you can have joint damage requiring reconstructive surgery and possible chronic loss of full function.

All these injuries could be avoided if the knife misses all the important structures. the extent of bleeding and time spent in recovery will range from a day to weeks depending of the need for surgery and reconstruction. So it is possible to have a knife wound that has some light bleeding (up to 300ml of blood), and the patient can be seen at a medical facility and discharged the next day.

I hope that answers your question well enough. Let me know if you have other questions.


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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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