Author Question: Exsanguination

Heather S. asks:

I came across your website while browsing for some information for a project. I am currently a nursing student and am doing a project on arterial bleeding. I am trying to find specific exsanguination times for the major artieries in the body. I have had no luck after searching online and multiple medical books. I just need a simple answer, i.e carotid artery 2-20 minutes. I have a few times, however, I feel that they are inaccurate. Please see below:

I-stock Photo

Carotid – 2-20 min

Brachial – 5-60 min
Femoral – 5-60 min
Aorta – 1-2 min
Popliteal – 5-60 min

I would greatly appreciate your help as it seems you are extremely interested in medicine. This might go on to help your other readers as I came across the questions dated January 12, 2012 where you discuss exsanguination. Thank you!

Jordyn Says:
Your question is not an easy one.

Any major artery (and the ones listed are major) that is completely severed will likely lead to the patient’s death in less than five minutes. I saw a demonstration once where a physician simulated this happening.

He took a 2 Liter bottle (an empty pop bottle) and filled it with water. He drilled a hole into it (to simulate arterial severing) and then squeezed it at a regular rate to simulate the heart pumping. That bottle was empty in a matter of three minutes. Yes, we timed it.He said the diameter of the hole he drilled equated to the popliteal artery which is behind your knee.

However, the injury may not be a complete separation which is why you have the varying time lengths. Of course, if the person gets some type of medical treatment (like a pressure dressing that stems the bleeding) they may last a lot longer as well.

I know this answer isn’t a clear cut answer but in medicine . . . they usually aren’t.

Heather’s Follow-up Question:
Could I say the smallest time is the fastest time to bleed out without medical attention and the longest time is a small bleed from an artery?

Jordyn Says: Yes, this is reasonable. 

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