A Staff Report from the Straight Dope Science Advisory Board

Can human beings really spurt blood like in the movies?

Dear Straight Dope:

We need a wise and knowing soul to answer a question of serious medical import. After viewing "Saving Private Ryan," there are two camps. One says that there's no way a human being would squirt out lots of blood, like a fountain. The intelligent ones say if you hit a major artery, like the carotid or jugular, you'd get at least a few seconds of dancing fluids. Certain parties have suggested the only way to resolve the issue is to buy knives and experiment. Help!

Ick. Where do the morbid ones hide during the day?

As a duly recognized expert on the subject of blood, as well as being an all-knowing, soulless wiseass (sorry, "wise and knowing souls" cost too much), I can answer this question.

First of all, an interesting and messy home experiment (note that there are no knives involved): take a pint of ink and throw it against a wall. The first thing that will cross your mind is, "Man, what a mess"; the second thing, "I've got to stop listening to strangers." The point of this was to demonstrate how a little liquid goes a long way. Now, maybe a pint of blood sounds like a lot, but the average adult male has 10 to 12 pints (8 to 10 pints if you're the average adult female), so there's more where that came from.

Second, let's introduce a phenomenon called "arterial gushing" or "arterial spurting." These terms probably bring certain vivid images to mind. These images are largely accurate. Arterial gushing occurs when an artery is severed and allowed to spurt. It is even sometimes possible to count the number of heartbeats from start to finish. Ick again. If you don't believe me, talk to any doctor or nurse friends you may have, who may have witnessed this event first hand.

To conclude, bet on the smart one. Not only do humans have a tendency to spurt lots of blood, they can look like a cross between David Letterman's Prancing Waters and Dr. Hannibal Lecter.

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