Arterial Bleeding: A Closer Look

This kind of bleeding is called arterial bleeding and it starts from the arteries. They transfer oxygen enriched blood from the heart to other different parts of the body. Given their function, they are under significant pressure, and this has several implications:

1. Bright Red: Blood from arterial bleeding usually is a bright red because of high oxygen content.
2. Pulsatile Flow: Arterial bleeding will often have a noticeable spurting or pulsation pattern, particularly if the patient’s major artery was cut open.
3. Rapid Blood Loss: Arterial bleeding can be fatal if it is due to the increased pressure, resulting in rapid loss of blood.

Venous Bleeding: How is it Different?

Venous bleeding is as the name applies. The vessels that bring deoxygenated blood to the heart from the body are these vessels. The differences in characteristics include:

1. Darker in Color: A dark red venous blood means it contains less oxygen than arterial blood.
2. Steady Flow: Venous bleeding is typically different from arterial bleeding which pulsates in nature.
3. Less Pressure: Venous bleeding is usually less pressured than arterial bleeding even though it is also serious.

Why Does the Difference Matter?

Knowing the distinction between arterial and venous bleeding is crucial for multiple reasons:

• Immediate Action: Rapid blood loss can occur due to arterial bleeding. At times, this requires immediate attention to halt the bleeding.
• Different Management: Even though both kinds of bleeding need pressure to arrest the flow, arterial bleeding could necessitate more forceful interventions such as, usage of a tourniquet and or surgical repairs. Particularly where the bleeding results from an artery.
• Risk Assessment: The kind of bleeding is identified to establish the extent of damage and probable complications.

Managing venous and arterial bleeding

It is essential to manage both a venous bleeding and an arterial bleeding for the sake of patients’ security and survival, especially traumas. Let’s delve into the specifics of managing each type:

Managing Venous Bleeding

Venous bleeding comes from the veins, which carry deoxygenated blood back to the heart. Here are the steps to manage venous bleeding:

  1. Direct Pressure: This is the primary and most effective method for controlling venous bleeding.
    • Use a clean cloth or bandage and press directly onto the wound.
    • If the blood soaks through, don’t remove the first bandage. Instead, place more bandages on top and continue applying pressure.
  2. Elevation: If possible and safe to do so, elevate the injured area above the level of the heart. This uses gravity to reduce blood flow to the area.
  3. Pressure Points: If bleeding continues, you can apply pressure to the main artery that supplies the area. For example, for a bleeding lower leg, pressure can be applied to the femoral artery in the groin.
  4. Dressings and Bandages: Once the bleeding is controlled, clean the wound if possible, and then apply a dressing or bandage to keep it clean and protected.
  5. Seek Medical Attention: Always seek medical attention if there’s a possibility of deep wounds, retained foreign objects, or if the bleeding doesn’t stop.

Managing Arterial Bleeding

Arterial bleeding is more dangerous due to the high pressure of blood flow and can be life-threatening if not managed immediately.

Image alt text: arterial vs. venous bleeding.

Author credit: By CODE ROOD –, CC BY-SA 2.0,

  1. Direct Pressure: As with venous bleeding, the first step is to apply direct pressure to the wound using a clean cloth or bandage. Due to the pulsatile nature of arterial bleeding, firm and consistent pressure is vital.
  2. Use of Tourniquets: For severe arterial bleeding, especially in limbs, a tourniquet may be needed.
    • Place the tourniquet 2-4 inches above the injury (closer to the heart).
    • Tighten until the bleeding stops.
    • Note the time the tourniquet was applied. Prolonged use can damage tissues.
  3. Hemostatic Dressings: If available, these are dressings impregnated with substances that promote rapid clotting. They can be especially useful in situations where tourniquets aren’t practical.
  4. Pressure Points: Applying pressure to the proximal artery can help reduce blood flow. For example, pressing on the brachial artery in the upper arm for a bleeding forearm.
  5. Immediate Medical Attention: Arterial bleeding always requires medical evaluation. Even if the bleeding is controlled, there’s a risk of complications.

General Guidelines

  • Always use gloves or a barrier if possible to prevent contamination and transmission of diseases.
  • Never use a tourniquet on the neck or torso.
  • Do not remove an impaled object as it may be acting as a plug to prevent bleeding. Instead, stabilize the object and seek medical help.
  • Continuously monitor the patient for signs of shock: pale, cold, and clammy skin, rapid heartbeat, shallow breathing, and anxiety.

Commonly Asked Questions

  1. Why is arterial blood bright red?

Arterial blood is oxygen-rich, which gives it a bright red color. This contrasts with the darker hue of venous blood, which carries less oxygen.

  1. Can venous bleeding be as dangerous as arterial bleeding?

While arterial bleeding is generally more immediately life-threatening due to the rapid blood loss, significant venous bleeding can also be dangerous, especially if not controlled.

  1. How can I tell if I have arterial bleeding?

Arterial bleeding typically presents as a bright red, pulsing or spurting flow of blood, especially when associated with major arteries.

  1. What is the best immediate action for arterial bleeding?

Applying direct pressure to the wound is the first line of action. For severe cases, especially in limbs, a tourniquet may be used.

  1. Are there other types of bleeding besides arterial and venous?

Yes. For instance, capillary bleeding occurs from tiny blood vessels and usually appears as a slow oozing.


The difference between arterial and venous bleeding is rooted in their origin, appearance, and the potential risks associated with each. Arterial bleeding, coming from the arteries, is bright red, pulsatile, and can lead to rapid blood loss.

On the other hand, venous bleeding originates from veins and is characterized by its darker hue and steady flow.

Recognizing these differences is vital for proper management and timely intervention. In cases of severe bleeding, always seek immediate medical attention.