Science Questions

How quickly can a person exsanguinate from a cut artery?

Sun, 14th Sep 2008

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Marie asked:

If you happen to have your jugular artery or femoral artery cut how long would it take for you to bleed out? I was having a heated discussion with someone about it. He says 36 hours. I say he’s nuts, it would just be a few minutes. Who’s right?


Kat -  I think you are.  If you have an injury to a major artery you could be dead with a matter of minute from loss of blood.  This obviously happens all the time in serious accidents.  Very nasty stuff.  Basically you just have this massive drop in blood pressure.  You can’t supply blood to your brain, you can’t supply blood to your heart.  You conk out pretty quickly.  If it’s in terms of getting all the blood out of you it probably wouldn’t take that long either.  It’s probably good to get all the blood out of normal people anyway.

Chris -  You’ve got a cardiac output of five litres a minute.  In other words your aorta, your main blood vessel, has got 5 litres of blood running through it every minute.  Your circulating volume, the amount of blood in your body is 5 litres.  At most if you cut someone’s aorta, if they had an aneurism that burst they could potentially lose all the blood in their body in one minute.

Kat -  Yep, you’d be in trouble.  Also bleeding over 36 hours is extremely unlikely unless you had some condition like haemophilia which meant you couldn’t clot.


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marie asked the Naked Scientists: Just a quick question. If you have your jugular vein, brachial artery or femoral artery cut, how long will it take someone to bleed out? Having a heated discussion with someone about it. he says 36 hours, and i say he's nuts, would be just a matter of minutes. Who's right? What do you think? marie, Sat, 6th Sep 2008

An adult heart pumps blood at several litres per minute.
An adult has about 4 or 5 litres of blood.
So could bleed to death in a few minutes.

(Don't try this at home) RD, Sat, 6th Sep 2008

Of course, if it's just a small cut... Bored chemist, Sat, 6th Sep 2008

depends on the artery, with some arteries like the Dorsalis Pedis Artery you'll have a few minutes, but with the Aorta, Femoral or Carotid Artery, your dead, you'll drop out-cool immediately from the blood pressure drop, and bleed out in less than a minute Steve, Thu, 21st Jul 2011

Just to clarify there's no such thing as jugular artery. The jugulars are veins ok, Sun, 22nd Jun 2014

I was stabbed thrice in my arm and chest by a home invader. He severed my brachial artery and axillary nerve clean in half.He fled and I immediately felt drowsy. Every time my heart beat blood gushed from my arm pit with great force as if a thumb over a garden hose. I made made it out my front door and about twenty step before I collapsed and went unconcious. Paramedics said I basically died and lost 75 percent of my blood. It all only took about a minute. A severed artery equals death extremely fast unless quick action is taken like in my case. wych, Tue, 4th Nov 2014

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