External Bleeding: Definition & Types

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  • 0:04 What Is External Bleeding?
  • 0:47 External Bleeding Types
  • 3:09 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Justine Fritzel

Justine has been a Registered Nurse for 10 years and has a Bachelor's of Science in Nursing degree.

In this lesson, we'll learn about external bleeding. We'll define what external bleeding is and explore the different types of external bleeding and examples of each.

What Is External Bleeding?

External bleeding is when blood is leaving the body through some type of wound. Any incident in which you physically saw blood would be an external bleed. Our circulatory system is made up of our heart pumping blood through arteries to deliver oxygenated blood to tiny capillaries that distribute the blood to all of our tissues. Our veins collect the blood from the capillaries and return the un-oxygenated blood back to our heart.

The blood vessels that make up our circulatory system come in all shapes and sizes. Arteries and veins range from large to small depending on the area of the body. By looking at the picture of our circulatory system, you can understand why some injuries may bleed more heavily than others. Let's look at different types of external bleeding next.

External Bleeding Types

There are three types of external bleeding that are categorized by which blood vessel is damaged. These include capillary, venous, and arterial bleeding.

1. Capillary Bleeding

John is playing catch with his buddy in the street. As John runs to catch the ball, he twists his ankle and falls to the ground. He stops his fall with his hands and feels the sting of pain immediately. He looks at his palms. He has scraped them all up on the pavement of the road. They are filled with dirt and small rocks. Blood is slowly oozing from the wounds.

John experienced capillary bleeding. The abrasions he obtained to his palms were not deep injuries and only damaged the tiny capillaries in his palms. Capillary bleeding is the most common type of bleeding. It's a minor injury in which the blood vessels are able to clot and stop the bleeding by themselves.

2. Venous Bleeding

Suzie was preparing dinner for her family. She was cutting up vegetables for a salad when suddenly she sliced into the top of her thumb. Immediately blood was steadily flowing from her thumb, and the shock from seeing red blood was alarming. Suzie acted quickly and grabbed a paper towel to apply pressure to her thumb.

Venous bleeding occurs when a vein is damaged. In this type of bleeding, the blood flows steadily. If it's a large vein, the bleeding may actually be gushing. When a vein is cut, most veins will collapse, which helps to slow the bleeding. If it's a deep vein such as an iliac vein, the bleed can be just as difficult to control as an arterial bleed. But in most venous bleeding, applying pressure and allowing the body to clot will stop the bleeding.

3. Arterial Bleeding

Phillip was building a deck for his backyard. He had a new wood saw that he was trying out. While he was cutting a piece of wood, something went wrong. Before he knew it, he realized he had cut his arm right above the wrist. Blood was shooting out in spurts and in large amounts. He felt panicked, but he acted promptly by hollering for help. His wife rushed out to apply a towel firmly to the wound while calling 911.

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