Gunshot Wound

Gunshot wounds can cause severe bleeding, damage to soft tissues and vital organs, broken bones (fractures), and wound infections. The amount of damage depends on the location of the injury, and the speed and type of bullet. Close care must be taken to avoid complications and to ensure safety and satisfactory recovery.

TREATMENT

You must seek medical care for gunshot wounds. Many times, these wounds can be treated by cleaning the wound area and bullet tract and applying a sterile bandage (dressing). If the injury includes a fracture, a splint may be applied to prevent movement. Antibiotic treatment may be prescribed to help prevent infection. Depending on the gunshot wound and its location, you may require surgery. This is especially true for many bullet injuries to the chest, back, abdomen, and neck. Gunshot wounds to these areas require immediate medical care.

Although there may be lead bullet fragments left in your wound, this will not cause lead poisoning. Bullets or bullet fragments are not removed if they are not causing problems. Removing them could cause more damage to the surrounding tissue. If the bullets or fragments are not very deep, they might work their way closer to the surface of the skin. This might take weeks or even years. Then, they can be removed in the office with medicine that numbs the area (local anesthetic).

HOME CARE INSTRUCTIONS

  • Rest the injured body part after treatment.

  • If possible, keep the injury elevated to reduce pain and swelling.

  • Keep the area clean and dry. Care for the wound as directed by your caregiver.

  • Only take over-the-counter or prescription medicines for pain, fever, or discomfort as directed by your caregiver.

  • If prescribed, take your antibiotics as directed. Finish them even if you start to feel better.

  • Keep all follow-up appointments. A follow-up exam within 2 to 3 days or as directed is usually needed to recheck the injury.

SEEK IMMEDIATE MEDICAL CARE IF:

  • You develop fainting, shortness of breath, or severe chest or abdominal pain.

  • You have uncontrolled bleeding.

  • You have chills or fever.

  • You have redness, swelling, increasing pain, or pus draining from the wound.

  • You have numbness or weakness in the affected limb. This may be a sign of damage to underlying nerve and tendon structures.

MAKE SURE YOU:

  • Understand these instructions.

  • Will watch your condition.

  • Will get help right away if you are not doing well or get worse.