How to Survive a Slit Throat?

Time for a practical topic; a slit throat, a problem that could just be lingering around the corner. One moment you’re weighing your broccoli at the veggie section, and next thing you know, you walk around with a slit throat, a terrible inconvenience. The whole floor is smudged with the blood gushing out of your neck, and how about that broccoli au gratin now? 

Roman emperor Nero would know what I’m talking about as he didn’t just dirty the floor, after ending up with a slit throat (by his own hand, before anyone else could, after he was declared a public enemy), he also started feeling dizzy and dropped dead right in all that mess. Maybe even on an empty stomach. What an unfortunate way to go!

More people than just young Nero made fame with slitting throats, such as London’s notorious serial killer Jack the Ripper. And how about the fabled Sweeney Todd, the evil barber who cut a bit more than just his customers’ hair?

Come to think of it, it seems like the slitters, rather than the slitted, grab all the fame, bringing me to conclude it’s a time-tested method that few walk away from. 

Except when your name is Daniel Hoevels of course. Back in 2008, this Austrian stage actor was about to reenact a dramatic suicide in Schiller’s play Mary Stuart. Instead of the prop knife that was supposed to be there, a razor-sharp real one ended up in his hands, either by accident or perhaps put there by a rival. Hoevels collapsed on stage, bleeding heavily, after performing this all too real suicide attempt and was rushed to the hospital. Luckily, the actor only narrowly missed his carotid artery, which would have proven fatal, so he walked out and even came back on stage the next day to repeat the same scene with a very, very blunt prop knife.

So far, we have established how much of a nuisance a slit throat is, up to the extent that many won’t even survive! But Daniel’s story gives us hope. Can we survive this messy situation, or is there really no way to ever again enjoy our broccoli gratin? And what to do when you suddenly feel something sharp slicing you from out of nowhere? How to survive a slit throat?

Has anyone survived a slashed throat?

Finally, some good news for the slitted ones: a cut throat can be overcome, although it greatly depends on the type of cut and the time it takes to receive medical help. 

While reading up on this edgy topic, the sad story of Susannah Birch grabbed my attention instantly, because it’s both eerie and hope-giving. Birch recalls what happened to her when she was only two years old and was attacked by her mother, who went through a seriously psychotic episode. 

“I survived having my throat deeply cut when I was 2 years old, then being held for 40 minutes. She believed that she was being told by God to sacrifice me in the way that Abraham was asked to sacrifice Isaac”, Birch writes. “The cut went to my ears, but the fact that she pushed my head back pushed major blood vessels into the back of my neck, so they weren’t cut. After 40 minutes, she came out of the episode enough to call the emergency number.”

After these horrifying 40 minutes, during which 2-year-old Birch could just as well have bled to death, she was rushed to a hospital. She underwent many surgeries and had to breathe through a tube for 11 years but survived.

What are the main risks of having your throat cut?

Doctors working with cut throats injuries, say the most common causes of death following a sliced throat are excessive blood loss (hemorrhage), shock, and a lack of oxygen (asphyxia) from aspirated blood. Even seemingly minor throat cuts may harbor serious trauma to blood vessels, nerves or visceral tubes, meaning you still risk dying before medical help arrives.

According to Birch, your chances of surviving a slit throat mostly depend on how deep the cut is. Under the skin of your throat, you find some large blood vessels: the carotid artery plus the internal and external jugular veins. Especially the carotid artery, directly connected to your brain, is a high-pressure blood vessel, meaning that if it gets cut, you can easily bleed to death if no immediate action is taken. If it’s completely sliced, you have less than a few minutes before bleeding out. The jugular veins have less pressure, so having these cut gives you slightly more time to get medical help.

Another vital body part in the throat is the trachea, a fancy word for your windpipe, through which air enters your lungs. If the trachea gets cut, you can drown in your own blood when blood enters your trachea, preventing you to breathe. 

How is a slit throat treated?

As mentioned, survivability of having your throat slashed will depend on two things: the amount of damage done to the blood vessels and trachea, and the speed at which medical help is obtained. 

If the trachea is compromised, doctors could put a tube, or a surgical airway, in it to bypass the wounded area. You may have seen survivors of throat cancer walk around with a breathing hole, which is pretty much what Birch walked around with for 11 years, after her horrifying incident.

Such a tracheotomy is extremely risky to perform on yourself in case of a slit throat, but if there’s no other choice, this can be attempted. There’s probably no chance to do this yourself unless you have a mirror and crazy skilled hands while being unable to breathe and bleeding heavily. 

Again, only perform this last resort procedure when there’s absolutely no other choice. You will need a clean straw or even an empty ballpoint pen casing, which you insert about 2 inches into the trachea of the victim. To get respiration started, blow a few breaths through the tube for about a second each, and see if breathing restarts naturally. If not, keep breathing into the tube and check if there’s any heartbeat. If that’s not there either, attempt CPR.

When the veins are severed, extreme loss of blood will take place due to the enormous blood pressure. This is why keeping pressure on the wound is so important. If done early and effectively, the chances of saving the patient’s life are severely increased. 

Although the exact order of treatment is debated and may depend on the specifics of the injury, after breath is secured, doctors generally start giving fluids like saline solution, packed red blood cells, plasma, platelets and cryoprecipitate to replenish the lost blood in the body. When breathing and blood stabilize, the patient has a significantly better chance of survival.

What materials might be used for cutting your throat?

Given its long history, anything under the sun has been used to slash throats. From knives to razor blades, and from glass to even more barbarian and gruesome objects. Such as the notoriously brutal Khmer Rouge, an ultra-Maoist group that ruled Cambodia from 1975 to 1979.

They released one of history’s worst forms of genocidal terror on its own people and had their own way of literally silencing people. Instead of outright executing them, they would slit their throats with a certain type of palm branch with a saw-like ridge. Victims didn’t die right away but would be unable to produce any sound due to their cut throat and would die slowly and twitching in pain on those cursed Killing Fields.

How do most slit throats happen?

According to doctors, most cut throat injuries, CTI’s as they call them, don’t occur at the vegetable section, unless you happen to be in the way of a maniac killer, which is hardly preventable other than by keeping your eyes and ears open without becoming paranoid while weighing your broccoli.

Most reported incidents come either from accidents, suicides, or homicide. While the injuries could be the same regardless of the way it happened, we’ll mostly focus on the last instance, as the first two are preventable. If you feel suicidal, please seek professional help without any delay. There’s always an ear for you at the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. Dial 988 right this moment (US only) or try one of the international helplines listed here: 

How to prevent getting your throat cut?

It would be a great start to avoid being abducted or taken hostage. Some ideas could be to learn basic self-defense techniques, not carry huge amounts of valuables, not take the same route every day, keep a safe distance from strangers and to keep a low profile if you actually have reason to suspect people are after you. 

What are the steps to survive having your throat cut?

It is crucial to seek immediate medical help. Please follow the below sequence of action to maximize the victims’, or God forbid, your own chances of survival.

  1. Apply pressure

Direct pressure on the wound with a clean cloth can do a lot to slow down the bleeding, which could otherwise be fatal long before reaching any sort of medical help. Make sure to press firmly, as blood pressure can be very high.

  1. Call 911

Or whatever the emergency number is in the country you live. Nowadays, 112 is used in the entire EU and a growing number of African and Asian countries. Try to speak coherently but waste no words and follow the given instructions. 

  1. Keep the air flowing

Ideally, let the patient sit up and lean slightly forward. This way, there’s more chance to keep the airway open and to prevent them choking in their own blood. If needed, use the straw-technique to keep oxygen coming in.

  1. Don’t panic

Even if it’s the most gory and desperate situation you’ve ever seen, try to stay calm. The last thing the victim needs is your screaming and losing hope. Keep talking to them in a calm voice, telling them an ambulance is coming.

If you’re all alone, still try following this protocol, prioritizing the application of pressure while somehow calling the cops if you’re still able to talk. If nothing else is available, try to send an SMS to the emergency number. Certain 112-countries, but only some parts of the United States’ emergency services accept text messages. Still, if there’s no other choice, go for it. Then text someone close who’s most likely to be online and who can call medical help on your behalf while you share your exact location.


In whatever way, you end up with a slit throat, getting medical help is the only real thing you can do to proactively save your life. Early help by a team of specialists can save the life of a victim most of the time, statistics tell. Of course, the severity of the slash will determine the outcome, and especially glancing blows can often be treated if severe blood loss is prevented.

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