Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Strangulation: Facts 2/3

I'm continuing my series on strangulation injuries. Here is Part I.

I once worked with a physician who was having a baby. Her father handmade her a crib. Sadly, his grandchild was strangled in that crib.

Vintage crib where slats are too wide.
I often think about that family-- how he must feel to have constructed the tool of this infant's demise. How was the relationship of that woman with her father after that? Definitely enough conflict in just that scenario to carry a novel.

While researching this series of posts on strangulation for a reader, I came upon a lot of interesting facts I didn't know myself. This is one reason why I'm such a research hound-- I love learning these things to add extra detail for the reader.

There are four types of strangulation:

1. Hanging
2. Manual: The use of bare hands.
3. Chokehold: Elbow bend compression
4. Ligature

Strangulation injury is not as uncommon as I thought-- it accounts for 10% of all violent deaths in the US. Perhaps because the hands are such a ready weapon-- the criminal doesn't have to think about bringing them to the crime scene.

Infants are likely to be strangled by falling between something (like slats in a crib that are too wide), or entangling themselves in something (like cords that dangle down from blinds).

Teens and pre-teens can suffer strangulation injury by playing the "choking" game or engaging in autoerotic hanging. These are not so uncommon activities in the pediatric population and we should discuss their danger with our children.

Women are increasingly using hanging as a means of suicide whereas in the past it was more common among men.

Prisoners will often kill themselves by hanging as it is the means of suicide that is most available to them.

When treating the victim of a hanging-- it is important to know the height they dropped from. A height equal to or greater than their height brings forth large concerns for C-spine injury. When a prisoner is hanged, they essentially die from decapitation. The C-spine is fractured between C1-C2 and thus severs the spinal cord(also called a Hangman's Fracture) so the head will free float. If done right, death is instantaneous.

When a person is strangled, there may be no signs of injury to the neck or very minimal signs. There may be only a single bruise present which is caused by the imprint of the thumb.


General Overview:

Wisconsin Medical Journal: Strangulation Injuries

Emergency Medicine Reports: Strangulation Injuries.

How to Improve Your Investigation and Prosecution of Strangulation Cases.


  1. I would add that not all prisoners jump from somewhere high. There's also a nasty trick where you tie a sheet to something solid and low, then tie it around your neck, get on your knees, and lean into the choke. It's common in autoerotic situations, I think? Anyway, you pass out, fall more deeply against the rope (I think?) and eventually die from a lack of Oxygen.

    My sister killed herself this way. (And I state that more as a point of how I know this than anything. She was a rather nasty character quite worthy of a novel, and we're all lucky my mother had chosen to fight for custody of my niece and was winning the battle, because evil sib would have probably taken her child with her to the grave. Nasty.)

  2. Jordyn,

    Wow. Ugh. This is tough stuff. But love the info. I really do. And Jester Queen - interesting addition. Sad about your sister - life is so precious and so many are blind to that. Prayers for her child.

  3. Jester Queen: WOW-- your deceased sister sounds like a very interesting character. I am saddened by her death and like Becky-- pray for the child left behind. Thanks for sharing your story.