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How deadly is a stab in the back?

Video games, movies, and other fiction would have us believe that a backstab against a foe with a modestly-sized blade leads to immediate and certain death, having a 100% success rate and causing death virtually instantaneously. How close is this to reality? How does the lethality of a puncture wound to the back compare to such wounds delivered to other areas of the body? What is the primary target in such an attack in terms of internal organs, and what variables effect its projected success?

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closed as primarily opinion-based by AMR, The Last Word, AliceD, rg255, March Ho Jan 2 '16 at 0:45

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • $\begingroup$ It depends on a lot of factors like the size of the blade, where you stab etc.. I would think that a stab through the heart would mean instantaneous death.. $\endgroup$ – The Last Word Jan 1 '16 at 4:15
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Check out the sources of Wikipedia article: the mortality rate is up to 4%.

The main causes of "immediate" death in penetrating trauma are shock (low blood pressure due to external/internal hemorrhage, especially arterial hemorrhage), pneumothorax, penetrating heart injury (with resultant hemopericardium) and other less frequent causes. The same causes account for "later" lethal case plus some specific causes like infections, emboly etc.

The overall mortality rate of stab wounds is far from 100%, and according to different studies is between 1% to 4%, but rarely more. The morbidity depends on depth of wound, place of injury, overall health status etc, thus multifactorial analysis is required to get an overall image of the penetrating wounds of the body.

Some sources: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2627025/ - (4.3% mortality in stab wounds to the anterior abdomen, back, and flank).

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3798182 - the mortality in back/flank stab wounds was 1.3%.

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  • $\begingroup$ I think there is a possibility for significant selection bias in those studies as they only include patients who made it to hospital alive $\endgroup$ – Rory M Jun 17 '15 at 23:08
  • $\begingroup$ @RoryM You are right about the "selection". However, it is very rare occasion to see an isolated back stab wound on autopsy as a cause of prehospital death, thus even if this bias were extremely significant, the mortality rate could not exceed 15%.... $\endgroup$ – Ilan Jun 18 '15 at 5:55

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