In almost every movie scene when a character is shot in the chest area, some blood comes from his mouth or sometimes even coughs blood before he dies.

Are these kind of scenes realistic/possible? If yes, why does blood come from mouth in this situation?

  • $\begingroup$ Its mostly Hollywood. It can happen but it's a stretch. Like a car blowing up. The myth busters blew that one out of the water and they could probably do the same her. It's possible and can be explained, but not probable. $\endgroup$
    – user19185
    Oct 5, 2015 at 6:58

1 Answer 1


Substances such as blood trigger the Cough reflex, so if for any reason blood accumulates in the airways, it will be ejected this way.

If you have a look at chest anatomy, you can see how this could be caused (look at Trachea down to the lungs, aorta and the carotid arteries above the heart). A shot through the chest can peforate many large blood vessels, along with the airways, and cause leakage inside.

I would consider it quite hard to hit the aiways like that though, the bullet would have to enter the chest quite near the centre as the cough reflex is not triggered by substances in the lung itself, only in the airways. There may be other ways of blood getting into the airways, but I would assume that a scene with a shot near the breast and then blood coughing would be unrealistic.

Thorax anatomy

Image source: Micheau, A (2010) ANATOMY OF THE MEDIASTINUM: ILLUSTRATIONS AND CROSS-SECTIONS. From: http://www.imaios.com/en/e-Anatomy/Thorax-Abdomen-Pelvis/Mediastinum-Illustrations

  • $\begingroup$ Nice answer, +1. Could you include a link to where you got the image from please? $\endgroup$
    – terdon
    May 8, 2013 at 13:14
  • $\begingroup$ Here you go, there's many more nice pictures where that came from :) $\endgroup$
    – Armatus
    May 8, 2013 at 16:09

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