View Full Version : How messy is a slit throat?

02-03-2003, 12:48 AM
Slitting a bad guy's throat seems to be the mode du jour of dispatching bad guys silently in most movies, books and computer games I've read.

Whenever I've seen it there never seems to be as much blood as I think there should be. After all, the villain is getting large arteries in their neck cut.

On the face of it, cutting someone's neck open sounds ti me like it'd be far too messy for anyone outside hollywoodville to use.

Or am I wrong?

02-03-2003, 01:32 AM
Depends how it's done I guess.

Cutting the front of the throat just severs the windpipe. If it's done right the combination of swelling and partial collapse due to the cartilage being severed will cause the victim to choke. This is prety slow but wouldn't be very bloody. Of course many people have had here throat cut in this way and picked themselves up after 10 minutes and walked to help. It's not very efficient.

Cutting the major veins would be very messy, and could also be pretty slow and noisy. A large portion of the person's blood has to be drained before they die. This is the method used when slaughtering animals for halal food for example to drain as much blood as possible. Definitely messy.

Cutting the carotid artery is very fast. It basically cuts off blood flow to the brain. Because it's fast it can also be fairly neat. A bit of blood will be lost before the heart stops beating, but not necessarily the gallons lost when the veins are severed. Still I suspect you'd still lose a noticable amount of blood. Of course if the trachea were also severed it might just drain straight into the lungs.

Bryan Ekers
02-03-2003, 03:16 AM
Family reunion coming up?

Darth Nader
02-03-2003, 04:11 AM
Silentgoldfish, I want you to stand in front of this mirror here. Good. Now hold still, this might sting a bit...


02-03-2003, 04:19 AM
Bryan Ekers: LOL (and I normally hate that expression)

Geek Mecha
02-03-2003, 06:17 AM
After having seen a film in which throat slitting was shown at least twice, we are curious: how "splurty" would the blood flow be in those scenarios?

What if you have really high blood pressure?

[semi-serious grin]

02-03-2003, 07:15 AM
I've seen pictures of the crime scene where Nicole Brown Simpson was murdered (she died from having her throat cut - so much so that she was nearly decapitated). It was VERY bloody.

Steve Wright
02-03-2003, 08:00 AM
Arterial blood spurts (basic first-aid training speaking here). It can spurt several feet, in the case of a healthy individual and a major artery being severed. It may stop spurting fairly rapidly in the case of the carotid, but, IMO, it's going to be pretty messy.

02-03-2003, 08:47 AM
Although I've not read it myself, my dad was telling me that in the a book by Andy McNabb (SAS soldier in Iraq during the war) that the one quick slash you see in the movies is fake.. in reality it's a messy job when you have to cut several times..

02-03-2003, 08:52 AM
Like plnnr said, you did see the Bundy Road photos, right?

We were giving a horse an IV once and I'd guess the blood shot 15 to 17 feet when we inserted the needle. Much of the volume the heart is capable of initially passes right through there.

02-03-2003, 11:15 AM
Re: arterial vs. venous bleeding:

I was always taught in First Aid classes how extremely dangerous arterial bleeding was--if you saw that the wound was spurting blood, the victim was in BIG trouble ... otherwise, it was just bleeding from a vein, which wasn't so bad.

Years later, my dad, an MD, told me that, in major trauma cases, venous bleeding was much worse: arteries, though they spurt, will close themselves off a bit after they are severed; veins will ooze forever. So in the long run, venous wounds can result in much greater blood loss.

Of course, the other half of the story is that, whenever you see arterial bleeding, the wound is generally going to be deeper (and hence the damage to all tissues will be worse) than the superficial venous/capillary bleeding we're all used to seeing from countless childhood injuries.

The Hamster King
02-03-2003, 11:46 AM
I was the game designer of the original Rainbow Six. Being a Clancy game we were pretty focused on realism. We considered letting the player slit the bad guys' throats until our technical advisers (who were uncomfortably familiar with the scenario) talked us out of it.

They basically said that shooting someone is almost always much neater, safer, and *quieter* than slitting someone's throat. Apparently it's a big gory mess and unless the first cut is perfect you've left with a thrashing, bellowing, enraged enemy. Even with a perfect cut it takes someone about ten seconds to lose consciousness -- that's a long time to hang on to someone who is panicked and struggling. One guy said he'd only do it as a desperation measure -- certainly not as part of their standard operating procedure.

Badtz Maru
02-03-2003, 11:53 AM
I've read that, if you are in the position to slit someone's throat (right behind them with a knife while they are unaware), it is better to stab the knife downwards into the chest, inside the collarbone, and then jerk the knife back along the inside of the collarbone. It will achieve the same purpose as cutting the carotid in the neck, but not as much blood leaves the body.

02-03-2003, 12:28 PM
Well, speaking as someone who has only slit throats while hunting, I can say it is very messy. If the animal is alive, it isn't necessarily easy either. And you have to have a pretty decent knife too. After my first hunting trip and I had to slit a deer's throat, I pretty much decided that slitting people's throats was pretty much a thing of movies. It's too messy and difficult otherwise.

Geek Mecha
02-03-2003, 02:58 PM
Yeah, I have seen the Nicole Brown Simpson pictures, but I never really counted it as a "typical" throat cutting example because it was near decapitation. I assume (perhaps incorrectly) that most slit-throat wounds don't go more than halfway through the neck.

Thanks for the responses.

On a tangentially related note, I always thought that the guys who studied blood spatter stains had an interesting but very morbid job.

02-03-2003, 04:08 PM
Sounds like it would be cleaner and easier just to do the old neck-breaking head twist thing:D

02-03-2003, 04:26 PM


gruesome but informative.

02-03-2003, 05:12 PM
Blake's excellent summary fits very well with my own experience, having helped to dispatch an old ram which was needed for dog-tucker.

The girl doing the actual cutting used a curved knife, which she dug in point first at the side of the throat, then cut across the whole width of the ram's throat. It was definitely not a 'quick slash' - she needed quite a bit of effort, even with a sharp knife.

With the whole throat open and the animal on its side, the blood just poured out as if from a bucket. A lot of the blood was being absorbed into the earth, so I imagine that if the process had been done on a tiled floor, the volume of blood there would be rather startling.

With no blood to the brain, the ram was technically 'dead' very quickly, but it was some minutes before the involuntary muscle twitches stopped; at times these were quite strong and you could be forgiven for mistaking them for a conscious attempt to flee or attack on the part of the animal.

Although this was the only example I've seen, I believe it was typical of a 'professionally' done job, i.e. done quickly and efficiently. As already mentioned above, however, it's nothing like the movies. To kill the animal as quickly as this needed the throat to be opened much wider and deeper than that 'quick slash' could ever do.

02-03-2003, 06:18 PM
It should also be clarified that the victim 'bellowing' isn't really a problem if the traca is severed below the larynx. The most sound that can be produced in that case is a whistle. Still a lot of potential for threashing around, but a lot quieter than a gunshot.

Sock Munkey
02-03-2003, 08:11 PM
What about stabbing into the back of the neck between the vertebra?

Rhum Runner
02-03-2003, 09:32 PM
Why not just drive the knife upwards through the base of the skull? Probably requires a good deal of strength, (and a strong knife) but should be instantly fatal.

Along the same lines, is the old piano wire garrote trick faster?

02-03-2003, 10:55 PM
As an EMT, I treated two victims with slashed throats. Both survived and recovered. One was a suicide attempt with a very sharp knife that did sever the right jugular and nicked the common carotid. The other was an assault that avulsed a large flap from the right side of the neck below the point of the jaw, I didn't find out what the exact vessel damage was. As others here have said, both wounds were extremely bloody. And although both were intended to kill, neither was fatal.

Of course neither was inflicted by a Delta Force/MI6/Super-special secret agent man like in the movies. :)

02-04-2003, 12:53 AM
Why not just drive the knife upwards through the base of the skull? Probably requires a good deal of strength, (and a strong knife) but should be instantly fatal.

Sounds good to me. THe only problem is the aiming factor. Too high and you hit the skull, too low and you might just glance off of the vertebae. Both would be painfull, but I dont think that either would be fatal.

If I were going to attempt something like this and wanted it to be clean and quiet I would try for a shot on the eyesocket. They used to do lobotomys with a spike at the top of the eye socket, so a long narrow bladed knife should have the same effect.

My other option would be to use a wide bladed knife and go for the spine either between the shoulders or just above the belt line. Either should sever the spinal cord and cause paralysis.

02-04-2003, 01:02 AM
Reading the collective responses to this thread has just given me a serious case of the willies.


Troy McClure SF
02-04-2003, 01:48 AM
Originally posted by neuroman
Reading the collective responses to this thread has just given me a serious case of the willies.


...So I think we're up for a Dopefest soon at the old farm ten miles from the nearest town, you in?

Rhum Runner
02-04-2003, 07:05 AM
Originally posted by BURNER
If I were going to attempt something like this and wanted it to be clean and quiet I would try for a shot on the eyesocket.
Like this? ;)

02-04-2003, 07:57 AM
Another vote for incredibly messy.

I was immediately behind a vehicle that strayed off the road and stopped abruptly in a culvert. I expected to find only minor injuries, at the very worst. I was wrong.

The injury was rather worse than asked about in the OP, none the less, it relates. It was horrible in gruesome. The amount of blood of startling in the extreme. I don't think anyone really wants the details, but it was not especially quick, and it was horribly messy.

02-04-2003, 08:27 AM
Hmmmm...I'll agree with those that say "messy", however, I assume that it is not that tough (regadring animals).

Long ago, when I was a teen, I was in my fathers boyhood village in Greece up in the mountains. My folks were using video cameras to document everything about the village that they could before it disappeared (modernized). My mom was to film the action at the slaughterhouse. I went with.

The butcher of the village was a huge, burly man. However, his 2 teenage daughters did most of the work.

The slaughterhouse was simply a large cement room with some hooks on the ceiling and a trough in the floor that led outside. There were about 4-5 goats in the building just kind of milling around. One of the girls grab and hold a goat (over the trough) while the other would take a large blade and slit the throat. They would then drop the goat to the floor. The amount of blood was enormous. Also, to me, it sounded as if the goat was trying to bray. Instead it came out as a guttural kind of bubbly groan. The goat would kick for a while and then stop. Meanwhile the other goats were flipping out in the far corner.

Anyway, considering that 2 small teenage girls were able to do this without much trouble suggests to me that slitting animals throats can't be too tough. Oh yeah...they wore no gloves which freaked me out. :)

02-04-2003, 09:47 AM
Like this? ;)

Something like that. More like aiming between the eye brow and the eyeball, upwards at a 45 deg. angle. Also note, before I get told that would be impossible, I said "Try" not succeed.

02-04-2003, 09:51 AM
- - - You can see for yourself. There are Chechen videos circulating on P2P and assorted "murder & mayhem" sites showing a captured soldier getting his throat slit alive. I cannot tell from the video if it was the Russian soldiers or the Chechen rebels doing the slitting. It doesn't look too messy at first, but the videos are rather short, only a few seconds. Pretty nauseating stuff, far more disturbing than any fake-bullshit horror movie.

02-04-2003, 10:45 AM
Originally posted by Ferris
Blake's excellent summary fits very well with my own experience, having helped to dispatch an old ram which was needed for dog-tucker.

Is there a Schochet in the house?

02-04-2003, 10:54 AM
Don't forget to include the clever quip. Whenever you kill someone, they should at least know how witty you are.

02-04-2003, 11:07 PM
My dad, as a Green Beret (Army Special Forces) in Vietnam, knew a Navy SEAL with a scar running the length of his forearm, from attempting to slash somebody's throat from behind and missing. The Army SF preferred a silenced .22 behind the ear; much quicker, quieter, and less messy.

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