Chilling Facts About IPV, Strangulation

When she reviewed the literature on strangulation, Maria Tackett said she had her biggest a-ha moment. She asked herself, “How many times have I missed this type of injury?”

The nurse director at Hartford Hospital in Connecticut discovered alarming statistics and information related to strangulation and its connection to intimate partner violence. She shared her knowledge with attendees at the session “Has This Patient Been a Victim of Strangulation” on Saturday.

She said one in three women will experience IPV, and 68 percent of those in IPV situations will experience near-fatal strangulation. Nearly 90 percent of strangulation victims have a history of IPV. And once experiencing strangulation, that person has a chance of being killed eight times greater than someone who hasn’t been strangled.

Tackett told session attendees that pregnancy also plays a significant role in IPV. As much as 30 percent of domestic violence starts when a woman is pregnant and IPV is the leading cause of death during pregnancy, she explained.

“Intimate partner violence and strangulation are all about power and control,” Tackett said, noting that the perpetrators often don’t intend to kill their partners, but rather aim to assert domination and control.

But of the strangulation victims who present to the emergency department, only half show visible signs. So, it’s up to ED nurses to know the subtle signs and symptoms of strangulation to ensure these patients get the best care and the best chance at getting out of the dangerous situation in which they find themselves.

Tackett went on to cover the basics of strangulation—what it is, how little pressure it takes to strangle someone, and common symptoms. She said the most common complaint is a sore throat, and the most characteristic sign is petechiae, especially in and around the eyes.

Since so few patients will tell their ED nurse that they’ve been strangled, nurses have to do the work to find out what’s really wrong. Tackett recommended going beyond just asking if the patient has been strangled.

“Ask specific, descriptive questions when interviewing a patient, and always have a high level of suspicion,” she said. “They are not going to bring it up. They are counting on you to bring it up. That makes triage one of our first places to make a difference.”