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Thread: Does a punctured heart really cause a fast death?

  1. #1 Does a punctured heart really cause a fast death? 
    Forum Ph.D. Raziell's Avatar
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    From watching alot of movies and series in my lifetime, one thing has always struck me as rather illogical.

    When people are either shot or stabbed in the heart they die very fast.

    Is this just fiction or reality, and why is it so?

    As I see it blood will still pump even if a hole in the heart causes you to bleed internally. The lungs and brain will still get blood just with a lower rate due to a lower pressure(?), and not only should you remain alive but also conscious for some time.

    Are movies just making this happen as a dramatic effect or something, or is there a reason you die so fast from - for example - a stab to the heart by a knife or gunshot wound.


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    they lose consciousness quick.


    With bravery and recognition that we are harbingers of our destiny and with a paragon of virtue.
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    A deer shot in the heart can run about 100 yards or so, then the blood drains from their brain.

    Police are taught to take two shots to the center of mass, then one to the brain. The shots to the center of mass are to make sure of the hit, the one to the brain is to stop the fight quickly. A person who has a lot of adrenaline flowing can fight on for quite a while after taking fatal wounds. This does not mean it happens that way all the time.
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    Wouldn't the heart explode when punctured?
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  6. #5  
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    Quote Originally Posted by msafwan View Post
    Wouldn't the heart explode when punctured?
    It depends on what is doing the puncturing. If it is an arrow or a knife, it would just put a hole in the heart, which may continue to pump some blood. If it is a high powered hunting rifle, it would pretty much destroy the heart completely. I don't think this always causes instant death, though, because there still may be some blood pressure in the brain for a while.
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    I have worked on a patient who had taken a fully penetrating wound to the heart, with a "stilletto" type knife, and then drove himself to the emergency room and walked in. The wound self sealed for a time but then ruptured. He collapsed in the ER but was saved due to prompt attention. The key factor in loss of the ablity to function is loss of blood pressure which equates to loss of oxygenation to the tissues.
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    There is a big difference between a stiletto and a gun shot. A bullet carries a shock wave with it, and does a lot of damage. Ever seen an exit wound compared to entry wound? A bullet through the heart will chop up the heart massively. Even a very small calibre bullet in the heart is unlikely to be survivable.

    A stiletto, on the other hand, if inserted and removed cleanly, might leave a survivable wound. I believe it is common for trained killers to twist the knife in the wound, which would make the kill certain.

    A human cannot survive as long as a deer. Our hearts are smaller, and shock sets in really, really quickly.
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    If we decapitate the head: the person should fall unconcious instantly right? so we can compare this with the instant blood loss to the brain resulting from heart failure (but I heard the head is still alive even after decapitation; you can call the person's name and he will open eyes...)
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    This article provides some insight to how fast someone may lose consciousness after being shot in the heart.
    The Myth of Energy Transfer
    When a person is shot in the body with a handgun and falls down unconscious within a half-dozen seconds, it can only be attributed to a psychological reaction to being shot. This person simply faints from the sudden realization and fright that he has been shot, not from blood loss or any other reason. (This discussion does not apply to rifle bullets. Obviously, wild animals that immediately collapse after being shot by a centerfire rifle bullet do not faint from fright. The wound dynamics of rifle bullets are markedly different, but the physiological mechanisms are identical.) In order to be FORCED to collapse an attacker must lose at least 20 percent of his total blood volume (unless the bullet damages his brain or cervical spinal cord). This will take several seconds to occur, even with a direct hit to the aorta or vena cava with a large caliber bullet.

    Most "stops" are psychological, not physiological in nature. The bad guy either faints or makes a voluntary decision to stop what he's doing. It's possible that a bullet with more "wallop," one that quickly delivers its energy and produces more blunt force sensation, might play a role in producing psychological collapse. But, psychological reaction to being shot is highly erratic and unreliable. It doesn't happen to everyone, especially a highly motivated attacker who's determined to cause as much harm as he can before he's stopped.
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  11. #10 It can cause instant death 
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    When the heart has been punctured by a projectile in this case a bullet it will cause hydro static shock, this happens instantly causing what basically looks like getting knocked out the body will go limp and fall to the ground very few are lucky to survive such a thing. Now hydro static shock is caused by the ripple effect the the bullet has on the body with the temporary and permanent cavity of the body this disrupts vital organs within the body turning them into mush. Now you could say that oh well if you shoot a deer in the heart it can take of running and still live for a wile, well consider how big a deer is versus a person different caliber bullets will cause different amounts of damage so with saying that if you get shot in the heart with a .22Lr you have a rather high chance of surviving versus getting shot by a .308 (don't get me wrong both are extremely deadly) but most people hunt deer with a .308 (a .308 is the same as a 30-06 or 7.62 its the same size projectile) now if you were to take something like a .408 cheytak and shoot a deer in the heart you can quot me that will instantly stop that deer due to how big that projectile is causing a bigger in essence ripple effect within the body. Now don't get me wrong its not all about the size of the bullet you can kill somebody just as dead with a .22 versus a .50bmg but its the though of how many of these shots it will take.
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    Well, I don't quite know what you mean by hydrostatic shock. In humans, there is hypovolemic shock, cardiogenic shock, and septic shock. When a heart muscle is pierced, there will be some blood loss into the pericardial cavity. The actual injury may trigger an arrhythmia such as ventricular fibrillation. If that doesn't happen, the process that follows will be loss of blood into the pericardial cavity. if this cavity is intact, the blood will build up around the heart, effectively squeezing it down until it can't pump blood properly (this is called cardiac tamponade). If the pericardium also leaks, the person will eventually bleed out into the chest cavity. How fast that occurs depends on how large the hole in the heart muscle is and how fast it is beating.

    FWIW,
    Clarissa

    PS, I just noticed you had necro'd a 3 year old thread.
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    Quote Originally Posted by DogLady View Post
    Well, I don't quite know what you mean by hydrostatic shock.
    Hydrostatic shock - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    PS, I just noticed you had necro'd a 3 year old thread.
    2014-2007 = 7.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dywyddyr View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by DogLady View Post
    Well, I don't quite know what you mean by hydrostatic shock.
    Hydrostatic shock - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    PS, I just noticed you had necro'd a 3 year old thread.
    2014-2007 = 7.
    2007? I must be missing something
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  15. #14  
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    Quote Originally Posted by mat5592 View Post
    2007? I must be missing something
    You are!
    What you missed was me being dumb.
    I saw the "Join date" rather than the post date.

    The good news is, that's my mistake for this decade out of the way...
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  16. #15  
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    Cool thing on hydrostatic shock. Must make a lot of work for trauma surgeons.
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  17. #16  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Harold14370 View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by msafwan View Post
    Wouldn't the heart explode when punctured?
    It depends on what is doing the puncturing. If it is an arrow or a knife, it would just put a hole in the heart, which may continue to pump some blood. If it is a high powered hunting rifle, it would pretty much destroy the heart completely. I don't think this always causes instant death, though, because there still may be some blood pressure in the brain for a while.
    So when your heart gets blown out, you still have enough time to think or say "OH FUCK"?
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  18. #17  
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    Quote Originally Posted by msafwan View Post
    If we decapitate the head: the person should fall unconcious instantly right? so we can compare this with the instant blood loss to the brain resulting from heart failure (but I heard the head is still alive even after decapitation; you can call the person's name and he will open eyes...)
    If the brain momentarily still has blood, it is supposed to have a second or two to realize what happened to it until it "runs dry". There are a few interesting accounts from the French Revolution (which may not be true).
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  19. #18  
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    Quote Originally Posted by jgoti View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by msafwan View Post
    If we decapitate the head: the person should fall unconcious instantly right? so we can compare this with the instant blood loss to the brain resulting from heart failure (but I heard the head is still alive even after decapitation; you can call the person's name and he will open eyes...)
    If the brain momentarily still has blood, it is supposed to have a second or two to realize what happened to it until it "runs dry". There are a few interesting accounts from the French Revolution (which may not be true).
    Would you happen to know any links for those interesting accounts or do you just enjoy teasing us?
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  20. #19  
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    It's a lot more reliably lethal than a head wound, at least.
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    I think I saw one of the Boston Marathon survivors still has shrapnel in his heart .
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  22. #21  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bad Robot View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by jgoti View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by msafwan View Post
    If we decapitate the head: the person should fall unconcious instantly right? so we can compare this with the instant blood loss to the brain resulting from heart failure (but I heard the head is still alive even after decapitation; you can call the person's name and he will open eyes...)
    If the brain momentarily still has blood, it is supposed to have a second or two to realize what happened to it until it "runs dry". There are a few interesting accounts from the French Revolution (which may not be true).
    Would you happen to know any links for those interesting accounts or do you just enjoy teasing us?
    One story might be the one about Lavoisier allegedly arranging for his severed head to participate in experiments in post-decapitation consciousness. That story didn't surface until the 20th century, so we can pretty much dismiss it as a recent fabrication.
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  23. #22  
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    Apparently not always.
    Suicide by Pencil


    You might be able to find a full version of this paper outside of paywalls, google locates a pdf copy on a cache if you search "Suicide by Pencil."
    We report an unusual suicide, committed with a common pencil. A 72-year-old male inflicted himself a penetrating thoracic wound while being hospitalized for a hip prosthesis operation. Although the patient was immediately operated, the cardiac injury appeared to be fatal. ....

    After the operation, the patient remained unconscious for several hours despite weaning from general anesthesia. Hemodynamically,
    he was in cardiogenic shock partially refractory to inotropic ther-
    apy. During the subsequent stay in the Intensive Therapy Unit,
    septicemia developed, resulting in the death of the patient due to
    multiorgan failure on the 11th postoperative day....


    ....We describe a case of suicidal penetrating cardiac injury inflicted with a commercially easily available 16-cm-long wooden pencil. To the best of our knowledge, no cardiac injuries with a pencil in either successful or attempted suicides have previously been reported.
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  24. #23  
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    Quote Originally Posted by geordief View Post
    I think I saw one of the Boston Marathon survivors still has shrapnel in his heart .
    For a claim like that I'd like to see the documentation. Even a very small piece of shrapnel in the heart has got to be life threatning as long as it remains there.
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  25. #24  
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    Quote Originally Posted by tk421 View Post
    One story might be the one about Lavoisier allegedly arranging for his severed head to participate in experiments in post-decapitation consciousness. That story didn't surface until the 20th century, so we can pretty much dismiss it as a recent fabrication.
    I would think to really tell much you'd need to be hooked up to an MRI at the time the head is severed and watch what happens. Anyway I found this article below that you might like.

    Some experiments with severed heads | A Blast From The Past
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  26. #25  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bad Robot View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by geordief View Post
    I think I saw one of the Boston Marathon survivors still has shrapnel in his heart .
    For a claim like that I'd like to see the documentation. Even a very small piece of shrapnel in the heart has got to be life threatning as long as it remains there.
    It is something I heard on the news recently. Apparently the danger is that the shrapnel shard may move.

    I can give you a link to the story on the BBC (there are plenty of other links from online newspapers as well)

    BBC News - Boston bombing: Couple still strong one year after tragedy

    also

    A year since Marathon attacks, many of wounded struggle - Metro - The Boston Globe
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  27. #26  
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    Quote Originally Posted by geordief View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Bad Robot View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by geordief View Post
    I think I saw one of the Boston Marathon survivors still has shrapnel in his heart .
    For a claim like that I'd like to see the documentation. Even a very small piece of shrapnel in the heart has got to be life threatning as long as it remains there.
    It is something I heard on the news recently. Apparently the danger is that the shrapnel shard may move.

    I can give you a link to the story on the BBC (there are plenty of other links from online newspapers as well)

    BBC News - Boston bombing: Couple still strong one year after tragedy

    also

    A year since Marathon attacks, many of wounded struggle - Metro - The Boston Globe
    I found the following comment in the first link.

    And then there's the shrapnel in his heart. Another operation. His dad says open-heart surgery is really painful.
    I did some more searching and couldn't find any more details. In any event I doubt if this guy is going to have a long full life because of it.
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  28. #27  
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    Quote Originally Posted by dan hunter View Post
    Apparently not always.
    Suicide by Pencil


    You might be able to find a full version of this paper outside of paywalls, google locates a pdf copy on a cache if you search "Suicide by Pencil."
    We report an unusual suicide, committed with a common pencil. A 72-year-old male inflicted himself a penetrating thoracic wound while being hospitalized for a hip prosthesis operation. Although the patient was immediately operated, the cardiac injury appeared to be fatal. ....

    After the operation, the patient remained unconscious for several hours despite weaning from general anesthesia. Hemodynamically,
    he was in cardiogenic shock partially refractory to inotropic ther-
    apy. During the subsequent stay in the Intensive Therapy Unit,
    septicemia developed, resulting in the death of the patient due to
    multiorgan failure on the 11th postoperative day....


    ....We describe a case of suicidal penetrating cardiac injury inflicted with a commercially easily available 16-cm-long wooden pencil. To the best of our knowledge, no cardiac injuries with a pencil in either successful or attempted suicides have previously been reported.
    The expression "The pen is mightier than the sword" suddenly became "The pen is the sword", talk about a poetic way to go. "This my friends will be my final punctuation!"

    I was sad to find out that puncturation is not a gramatically correct form of the word puncture, in which case I couldve written "Punctu(r)ation"
    A lie is a lie even if everyone believes it. The truth is the truth even if nobody believes it. - David Stevens
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  29. #28  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bad Robot View Post
    I found the following comment in the first link.

    And then there's the shrapnel in his heart. Another operation. His dad says open-heart surgery is really painful.
    I did some more searching and couldn't find any more details. In any event I doubt if this guy is going to have a long full life because of it.
    The bomb that got him had BBs in it and if I remember it correctly the shard of shrapnel which is so often reported by the press is actually one BB.
    They left 12 of them stuck in his left knee too.
    I am not trying to minimize Marc Fucarile's injuries here, he was very seriously injured, but the mental image of a jagged shard of metal piercing his heart is slightly misleading.
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  30. #29  
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    They (coroner) estimated it took 20 minutes for my niece to bleed out.
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  31. #30  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bad Robot View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by jgoti View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by msafwan View Post
    If we decapitate the head: the person should fall unconcious instantly right? so we can compare this with the instant blood loss to the brain resulting from heart failure (but I heard the head is still alive even after decapitation; you can call the person's name and he will open eyes...)
    If the brain momentarily still has blood, it is supposed to have a second or two to realize what happened to it until it "runs dry". There are a few interesting accounts from the French Revolution (which may not be true).
    Would you happen to know any links for those interesting accounts or do you just enjoy teasing us?

    I do

    All the accounts are quite anecdotal -and gruesome- but here's a few:

    (to be taken with a pinch of salt)

    In 1905, [Dr Gabriel Beaurieux] arranged to attend the execution of the murderer, Henri Languille. Shortly after the blade severed Languille’s head, Beaurieux noted a frightening observation:
    [T]he eyelids and lips of the guillotined man worked in irregularly rhythmic contractions for about five or six seconds. [After several seconds], the spasmodic movements ceased…It was then that I called in a strong, sharp voice: “Languille!” I saw the eyelids slowly lift up, without any spasmodic contractions – I insist advisedly on this peculiarity – but with an even movement, quite distinct and normal, such as happens in everyday life, with people awakened or torn from their thoughts. [8]

    Fascinated, Beaurieux called out the victim’s name again, and again, Languille’s ‘eyelids lifted and undeniably living eyes fixed themselves on mine with perhaps even more penetration than the first time’. [9] On the third attempt, there was no response.


    And also:

    Some experiments with severed heads | A Blast From The Past

    This one mentions Lavoisier as pointed out by someone else.
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  32. #31  
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    ok....I am now officially creeped out
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    There is some evidence suggesting that sometimes the trauma of the spinal chord severing and the blood loss isn't enough to cause instant death, and some level of consciousness might stick around for a few seconds after decapitation in rare instances. Whether this is higher brain functioning or sheer confusion and instinct is probably impossible to say. Maybe someone has some really good studies they can point to that shed more light on the issue?
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