Atlas of Stab Wounds

The most common cause of death in stab attacks is, beside strikes to the heart, especially wound infection. Due to this, the heart rhythm is changed so that it comes to a lethal dysfunction.

The primary target of attacks with stab and thrust weapons is and will remain the heart, as the resulting cardiac tamponade (accumulation of fluid and air in the heart muscle) kills within a short amount of time.

People who have suffered stabs to the chest or stomachs can often only be saved through an emergency surgery. If important veins or arteries are ruptured by the weapon, internal bleeding can also lead to death.

Should even the ribcage (thorax) be opened by the weapon, the pressure difference will cause the lungs to deflate, leading to suffocation.

Cuts to the muscles are not normally deadly, but should the wound not be treated properly, the ensuing infection still can be.

When will a wound turn lethal?

Here as with the “Atlas of Stab Wounds”, the rule is: the more blood loss, the more dangerous the situation is. What is dramatic and insidious about this is, however, that under the influence of adrenaline stab wounds often go undetected or are only noticed much later than a similar bullet wound. The danger of rupturing a vein or artery without noticing is accordingly high.

In contrast to bullet wounds, there are no handy statistics on the hit ratio and primary causes of death.


The neck is probably the most vulnerable region for knife attacks. Here, important veins and arteries like the jugular run closely beneath the skin.


Especially strikes to the lungs and heart can be lethal in short time. Opening of the ribcage (thorax) and hits to the heart muscle itself can lead to a quick death if no immediate surgery can be performed.


Slashing the wrists in a suicide attempt or when trying to ward off a knife attack with one’s arms can cause heavy blood loss, and even seemingly harmless wounds can be deadly.


By stabs to the stomach, the abdominal cavity is often opened and the deep-lying blood vessels ruptured. The danger of impalement trauma and stabs to the stomach is that, on the surface, the wound will often be small and bleed little, while actually going quite deep. Immediate surgery, including a surgical opening of the abdominal cavity, is essential to prevent blood loss.


Here, the insides of the thighs with their femoral arteries are especially vulnerable, as they are not protected by the femurs. If this sensitive region is hit, it will result in massive blood loss, which cannot be stemmed in action. Immediate medical treatment is essential.

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