Assuming we are in post-apocalyptic wilderness where herbs are readily available for treatment, would it be feasible for someone to be stabbed with a knife and not only survive but heal enough to keep moving within a week max? The wound can be anywhere, but I was thinking the only place it could realistically be is the upper arm around the bicep.

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    $\begingroup$ Too few details. Shallow wound? Thin knife like a stiletto? Hits muscle? Fat? Certainly not if an organ is hit, or any sizeable vein. But, this is fiction, right? In the movie Cloverfield a character lands on a piece of rebar, ran her through, she ran around like a healthy rabit for the rest of the movie (reality: she'd have bled out in less than 20 minutes, maybe less). $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Commented Aug 23, 2017 at 23:02
  • $\begingroup$ @JBH The knife would most likely be something like a steak knife and i believe would go through mostly fat and muscle, no bones or organs involved. It is fiction and if its not super realistic thats totally fine. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 23, 2017 at 23:18
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    $\begingroup$ While ZioByte's answer is good, don't be too hasty marking a question answered. People visit this site from around the world and generally, the moment you accept an answer people stop offering new answers. You never know what you might learn. We recommend waiting at least 24 hours before accepting an answer to give everyone time to chime in. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Commented Aug 23, 2017 at 23:22
  • $\begingroup$ as the others had pointed out, it depends on the location and severity of the wound. Our body must maintain a certain level of blood pressure to ensure oxygen and other nutrients are transported to the cells to function properly, too much blood loss can be fatal and wound heals by introducing new cells which is glued in place with collagen... a painfully slow process by then bacteria and virus starts proliferating! $\endgroup$
    – user6760
    Commented Aug 24, 2017 at 1:34

3 Answers 3


A stab with a clean blade may not be fatal and heal almost perfectly, even without modern medicine and outer help, if the blade travels only through skin, fat and muscle, possibly cutting some vein, but no major arteries.

If anything else is in its trajectory things get stingy, unless you have a doctor available.

A modern E.R. is not necessary (but it helps); doctors in Magna Grecia were perfectly able to help non-desperate cases and so were western doctors even before the invention of antibiotics.

A stab in the guts would have been almost certainly fatal.

In post-apocalyptic settings you can assume the presence of "doctors" akin to what they had in the Far West, I presume.

  • $\begingroup$ would you agree that given the situation you describe, the wounded person could be moving again in a week? $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Commented Aug 23, 2017 at 23:21
  • $\begingroup$ @JBH That sounds fairly acceptable provided the right healing plants are available at the time. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 23, 2017 at 23:24
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    $\begingroup$ @JBH: it is unclear what you ask. In the first hypothesis (just muscle tissue) he would be moving (being careful) in a day. In "doctor needed" case it strongly depends on what was cut exactly, but, unless there are broken bones, which take time (~35 days) to heal (but patient is at least partly functional), I would say that if he is not somewhat on his feet in about a week he will die. Infections without antibiotics either resolve themselves relatively quickly or are fatal. A week is probably short, but not too much. $\endgroup$
    – ZioByte
    Commented Aug 23, 2017 at 23:30
  • $\begingroup$ @ZioByte, I like your answer, but it doesn't address the OP's condition that the wounded person be capable of moving in a week. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Commented Aug 24, 2017 at 5:12
  • $\begingroup$ "you can assume the presence of "doctors" akin to what they had in the Far West" I stronhly disagree with you there, by post-apo we can guess a lot of the technolgy is gone, but the science, the knowledge, some people still have it and can teach it. So you would have farwest-like tools, but before-apo knowledge $\endgroup$
    – Rolexel
    Commented Aug 24, 2017 at 10:09

A stab to the face (save the eyes) or scalp won't hinder your character's ability to run or use the arms. Sure the scalp bleeds like stink, but you know, that's what cautery irons are for. If blood loss isn't too great, could be running around within an hour or two.

Regardless of where the stab is, the primary factors in play will be luck and even more luck. A (relatively) clean wound that is quickly irrigated with (relatively) clean water and treated with (relatively) clean instruments and bandages will heal well enough on its own.

Getting up and moving again --- that will largely depend on how dire the need is to get up and move again. If your character is on the run or otherwise needs to get from one place to another, well, she'll get up and move.

So "realistically", your character can be stabbed just about anywhere that does not involve a great vessel or vital organ or needed tendon (Achilles tendon, anyone?) and heal without a well equipped modern ER / OR. People have been stabbing each other, biting each other, being attacked by predators and so forth for millennia and for some reason we still seem to be around as a species. Healing may not be ideal without proper care, but it does happen.

  • $\begingroup$ @Makyen -- point taken. $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Commented Dec 27, 2018 at 4:18

A relatively short and skinny blade would be the best tool to get stabbed with.

You'll want to avoid organs, so the abdomen is out. The arm would be a good place like someone suggested. Possibly the character was trying to protect another part of his body and blocked the knife with his arm or fore arm. As long as you avoid the under arm area, because that's where major arteries run and if those are punctured it would most likely mean death.

The thigh is another good place. It's thick with muscle and being pierced with a smaller blade would probably be just a surface wound. The back of the leg though has major arteries and nerves that, if damaged, would require more than home treatments to fix. I also suggest looking at human anatomy diagrams to find ideal places to put this stab wound.

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    – Secespitus
    Commented Aug 24, 2017 at 12:15

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