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Old 02-16-2018, 03:10 PM
bardos bardos is offline
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A bullet can stay lodged in someone's body like forever and no problemo?

A New York Yankee minor leaguer who lives in Venezuela, Thairo Estrada, was shot in the hip during a botched robbery attempt in his home country. According to the New York Post, the bullet remains lodged in his hip and there are no plans to remove it. In fact, he has started rehab and exercising with the bullet still there. Could it remain there forever? Not understanding this.
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Old 02-16-2018, 03:13 PM
Ashtura Ashtura is online now
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Could it remain there forever?
Well, after he dies and and his skeleton completely erodes, probably not. If your asking if a foreign body can remain in the body without any adverse effects leading to death, sure. You probably have some in your teeth.

Last edited by Ashtura; 02-16-2018 at 03:14 PM.
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Old 02-16-2018, 03:24 PM
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Sometimes the surgery removing foreign material causes more harm than leaving it there. It doesn't mean there will be no problems. It's just the best choice they can make. If at a later date it proves to be an issue they'd address it then.

I've known a number of people who have had various life events leaving them with chucks of metal in them. They function just fine.
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Old 02-16-2018, 03:29 PM
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I have a small piece of gravel embedded in my left palm. Has been there for 39 years. It occasionally hits a nerve when I grip something hard in a particular way, but other than that it causes no issueeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee
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Old 02-16-2018, 03:32 PM
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Most people have some small foreign bodies stuck under their skin somewhere. Perhaps nothing as big as a bullet, but a lot of gunshot victims will end up with a bullet permanently lodged in them instead of removed. Sometimes the procedure to remove it will be riskier than just leaving it there. Other times it may be impossible to remove it without doing severe damage to surrounding tissue. Your body is actually fairly good about healing around and isolating solid foreign objects.
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Old 02-16-2018, 03:58 PM
thelurkinghorror thelurkinghorror is offline
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"Have to remove the bullet" is Hollywood fiction. The lead involved, even if an unjacketed bullet, is likely inert. More damage can be done by digging around.
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Old 02-16-2018, 04:00 PM
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Thanks to all who contributed to increasing my knowledge in this thread
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Old 02-16-2018, 04:14 PM
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Depends it seems. If the bullet is lodged and hasn't caused any bone fractures than it seems to not be as much of an issue. Whereas bone fracture in combination with a lead bullet can lead to increased lead levels.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11371848

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15706190

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15033646

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12730839

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25207300

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23982410

Many factors it seems.
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Old 02-16-2018, 04:20 PM
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Originally Posted by thelurkinghorror View Post
"Have to remove the bullet" is Hollywood fiction. The lead involved, even if an unjacketed bullet, is likely inert. More damage can be done by digging around.
Yeah, I blame Hollywood for this popular misconception. I've seen assorted movies and TV episodes where someone is threatening to die after being shot and the act of removing the bullet (usually with a shot of bullet going "clink" onto a metal tray) magically makes them recover. Surgery after a gunshot wound is done to fix the holes that the bullet put in various structures, not to recover the bullet.

That said, occasionally the bullet does cause problems later. When I was a resident I saw a patient in clinic who had been shot at some point in the past and the bullet had migrated slightly so that it was sitting just under the skin where it caused a bump that was rubbing against his clothes. A little local anesthesia, a small incision and we removed the bullet during the clinic appointment.
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Old 02-16-2018, 04:21 PM
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My Father-in-Law had shrapnel in his nose from the invasion of Holland. He died only 3 years ago, and it caused him no problem, and so it was left to be.
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Old 02-16-2018, 04:41 PM
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On the other hand:
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Andrew Jackson survived the War of 1812 and Indian campaigns only to be felled by his own physicians -- or at least that is what many historians have long believed. The seventh President's doctors, they argue, subjected him to decades of poor health, and may even have hastened his death, by overdosing him with the mercury-containing medications of his time.

But scientists analyzing two snippets of Jackson's hair have now come up with evidence that gets his doctors off the hook. The findings, being reported in today's issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association, rule out mercury as the cause of his chronic health problems and suggest that they were instead brought on partly by lead poisoning from a bullet that lodged in his left shoulder in an 1813 gunfight and stayed there for almost 20 years.
http://www.nytimes.com/1999/08/11/us...xonerated.html
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Old 02-16-2018, 05:09 PM
thelurkinghorror thelurkinghorror is offline
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Originally Posted by pendgwen View Post
Yeah, I blame Hollywood for this popular misconception. I've seen assorted movies and TV episodes where someone is threatening to die after being shot and the act of removing the bullet (usually with a shot of bullet going "clink" onto a metal tray) magically makes them recover. Surgery after a gunshot wound is done to fix the holes that the bullet put in various structures, not to recover the bullet.

That said, occasionally the bullet does cause problems later. When I was a resident I saw a patient in clinic who had been shot at some point in the past and the bullet had migrated slightly so that it was sitting just under the skin where it caused a bump that was rubbing against his clothes. A little local anesthesia, a small incision and we removed the bullet during the clinic appointment.
You mean a gunshot wound is not fixed with a bandage as long as it gets you in the shoulder?

Right, it will be removed if it is safe to do so. Any potential migration of shrapnel might be a concern later on and might be monitored.
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Old 02-16-2018, 05:34 PM
pendgwen pendgwen is offline
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You mean a gunshot wound is not fixed with a bandage as long as it gets you in the shoulder?
Depends - where in the shoulder?

I've seen gunshots to the shoulder that hit nothing but muscle and were literally discharged with a band-aid over the wound. But if the bullet shattered the shoulder joint you better hope the orthopedic surgeon on call is good at jigsaw puzzles.
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Old 02-16-2018, 05:55 PM
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My dad had shrapnel in his leg from October 1944 until his death in 2013. When he was about 85, he told me he was now officially an old man. I asked what he meant. He said that when he was wounded, he asked a doctor if the shrapnel in his leg would cause any problems. "Not until you are an old, old man," was the doctor's reply. My dad then said it hurts now so I must be an old man.
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Old 02-16-2018, 06:13 PM
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Many have carried bullets in them for a very long time. Teddy Roosevelt did from 1912 til his death in 1919.
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Old 02-16-2018, 09:10 PM
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Shrapnel is different from bullets though--it's generally a sharp piece of metal which has more potential to "migrate" than the typical bullet, which I believe ends up as a sort of lump. Obviously bullets can migrate too as noted above. IANA shrapnel, bullet, or medical expert.
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Old 02-16-2018, 09:42 PM
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Originally Posted by thelurkinghorror View Post
"Have to remove the bullet" is Hollywood fiction. The lead involved, even if an unjacketed bullet, is likely inert. More damage can be done by digging around.
Considering the concept killed James Garfield in 1881, it hardly originated in Hollywood.

The bullet that hit him would have been fine left alone, but the attempts to find it (including sticking dirty fingers into the wound) let to the infection that killed him.
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Old 02-16-2018, 10:02 PM
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Considering the concept killed James Garfield in 1881, it hardly originated in Hollywood.

The bullet that hit him would have been fine left alone, but the attempts to find it (including sticking dirty fingers into the wound) let to the infection that killed him.
Which is what lead to Roosevelt opting not to have the bullet removed after his assassination attempt.
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Old 02-16-2018, 10:33 PM
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When I was a teenager I was in a car accident. A part of the diver's door went into my side leaving a wound with lots of paint and glass in it. At the hospital they spent some time cleaning it out but, for many years afterwards, I would get an occasional "pimple" in the area that would contain a tiny sliver of glass or grey paint.
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Old 02-16-2018, 11:09 PM
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Considering the concept killed James Garfield in 1881, it hardly originated in Hollywood.

The bullet that hit him would have been fine left alone, but the attempts to find it (including sticking dirty fingers into the wound) let to the infection that killed him.
Err, isn't that the exact opposite of the Hollywood concept?
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Which is what lead to Roosevelt opting not to have the bullet removed after his assassination attempt.
That and he was a mothafuckin' Bull Moose!
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Originally Posted by don't ask View Post
When I was a teenager I was in a car accident. A part of the diver's door went into my side leaving a wound with lots of paint and glass in it. At the hospital they spent some time cleaning it out but, for many years afterwards, I would get an occasional "pimple" in the area that would contain a tiny sliver of glass or grey paint.
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worl...-accident.html
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Old 02-17-2018, 10:06 AM
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I have some gravel in my left knee that's been there since I took a fall at a church retreat in 1984. My Dad has shrapnel in his left knee that's been there since the Vietnam war. Not bullets, but the point remains; at least for a left knee, foreign objects are survivable.
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Old 02-17-2018, 10:21 AM
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As far as the Andrew Jackson story, the Times link includes this:

"One lead-poisoning expert, Dr. John F. Rosen, professor of pediatrics at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, who was not involved with the study, said that ''hair lead levels are difficult to interpret'' and that, contrary to the view of other experts, it is impossible to correlate blood and hair lead levels reliably."

I don't see where they 1) convincingly established lead as the cause of Jackson's chronic health problems, or 2) ruled out lead exposure from other sources.

I remain doubtful that lead leaching from a single bullet could significantly have a major impact on someone's health over time.

In general, foreign bodies tend to become walled off by granulomatous inflammation and eventually fibrous tissue, with no significant problems in the human body unless in an area critical to functioning or associated with chronic pain. Unless of course the foreign body is something like this.
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Old 02-17-2018, 11:06 AM
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People were exposed to compounds of lead quite frequently in past ages, and determining where the exposure came from can difficult (e.g. glaze in pottery)
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Old 02-17-2018, 11:18 AM
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My Dad took a bullet at age 3 (don't ask - not sad but a long story), carried it with him through WW II, and still had it when he died in 2001. He was shot pre-x-rays and after mangling him a fair bit trying to find it, the doctor at the time just sewed him up and that was that. It never did give him any real issues other than always needing to warn x-ray techs that it was there. For some reason, where it was in his thoracic/abdominal cavity (? - not sure of the proper term) it kind of moved a bit over the years. To hear his doctor describe it --- more than a bit.

Had there been an autopsy after his death (no need - natural causes) I almost would have requested they try to recover it. I grew up seeing the scar from "the search" that I could hide my 4-year-old hand in and hearing the story of how it came to be and I was always curious to see it other than on the film; to hold it in my hand. Oh well, right conditions and all, maybe some archeologist in the future will come across it.
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Old 02-17-2018, 03:01 PM
Lance Turbo Lance Turbo is offline
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Mark Seay played an entire NFL career and lives on today with a bullet next to his heart.

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Seay accepted a football scholarship at Cal State Long Beach in 1988. That year while attending his sister's children Halloween party, shots were fired outside the home, compelling him to shield his 2-year-old niece with his body. He resulted injured with a .38-caliber bullet that pierced through his pelvis, kidney and lung, stopping near his heart (where the bullet still remains). He was hospitalized for 2 1/2 weeks, lost a kidney and spent two months eating only soup, while keeping strict bed rest.
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Old 02-17-2018, 03:03 PM
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Which is what lead to Roosevelt opting not to have the bullet removed after his assassination attempt.
Plus the fact that Roosevelt was a badass whose life may have been saved by the 50 page speech in his pocket, that he still delivered with the bullet in his body. Bad. Ass.

Potential complications of leaving a bullet in the body:
May cause trouble with metal detectors and MRI machines.
May lead to technology-enhanced superheroism.
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Old 02-18-2018, 11:34 PM
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You mean a gunshot wound is not fixed with a bandage as long as it gets you in the shoulder?
If the bandage is made from an artfully torn t-shirt or mini-skirt worn by the heroine, it's basically magic medicine that can fix anything.
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Old 02-19-2018, 02:09 AM
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Harmless gunshot flesh wounds remind me of 80s/Arnold movies. So I can't read the thread title without hearing "no problemo" in the T-800's voice.
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Old 02-19-2018, 02:43 AM
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I have a metal plate in my head from age 6, sometimes it gives me a headache just remembering it. Just kidding, never been a problem.
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Old 02-19-2018, 03:10 AM
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Unlike the Hollywood portrayal (except maybe George Clooney's talk to his men in Three Kings), the bullet being in your body is not the problem. It's been sterilized in the barrel and from its flight through the atmosphere.

Nor, strictly speaking, is the fact that it put a hole in you. I mean other than the fact that the hole might also have passed through vital organs and severed blood vessels. From what I've read, doctors will typically NOT close up the hole so that it can heal from the inside - out.

The problem is from the bullet's trip into you where it can rupture organs, shatter bone and sever blood vessels, all potentially causing a rapid death or crippling injury. Assuming you survive that, there is the potential risk of death from infection. Not from the bullet itself, but from bile, fecal matter or other bodily fluids being where they shouldn't or just general infections people get from an exposed wound. Maybe also from bits of debris pulled into the wound by the bullet. I'm not sure about that part.

Longer term, you may have to deal with the loss of functionality in any organs that were damaged by the bullet.


Or maybe Hollywood is right and all you need to do is dig out the bullet and close up the hole with something and you'll be ready to kick ass again in a few minutes.



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Originally Posted by pendgwen View Post
Yeah, I blame Hollywood for this popular misconception. I've seen assorted movies and TV episodes where someone is threatening to die after being shot and the act of removing the bullet (usually with a shot of bullet going "clink" onto a metal tray) magically makes them recover. Surgery after a gunshot wound is done to fix the holes that the bullet put in various structures, not to recover the bullet.
And by "surgery" do you mean taking gunpowder from another bullet, putting it in the hole and lighting it on fire to cauterize the wound? In severe cases, using a syringe (or pen or other implement) to remove excess air from the chest cavity?







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When I was a teenager I was in a car accident. A part of the diver's door went into my side leaving a wound with lots of paint and glass in it.
Yikes. It must be difficult going through life with a car door embedded in you!
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Old 02-19-2018, 10:26 AM
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And when someone asks him for a jar of something.
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Old 02-19-2018, 10:50 AM
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Nah, the real reason Teddy didn't have the bullet removed is that, if they had tried, his body would have forced it out so violently that it would have ended up shooting one of the doctors, a fate that was only prevented by the intervening invulnerable barrier of Roosevelt flesh. Totally true fact that I just made up.
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Old 02-19-2018, 11:21 AM
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Assuming you survive that, there is the potential risk of death from infection. Not from the bullet itself, but from bile, fecal matter or other bodily fluids being where they shouldn't or just general infections people get from an exposed wound. Maybe also from bits of debris pulled into the wound by the bullet. I'm not sure about that part.
Both Garfield and McKinley died mainly because of the infection produced by their wounds, rather than the damage done by the bullet itself. In Garfield's case in particular the repeated probing of his wound by doctors with unsterilized fingers and instruments as they searched for the bullet helped promote the infection that killed him. He might have done better if they had just patched him up and never tried to find the bullet.
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Old 02-19-2018, 03:19 PM
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Nah, the real reason Teddy didn't have the bullet removed is that, if they had tried, his body would have forced it out so violently that it would have ended up shooting one of the doctors, a fate that was only prevented by the intervening invulnerable barrier of Roosevelt flesh. Totally true fact that I just made up.
The truthiness of your fact is very high on the truthiness scale. As bad asses go Chuck acknowledges Teddy's superiority and only Old Hickory was actually as tough and he was a total ass beside a bad ass.
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Old 02-19-2018, 05:00 PM
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.
And by "surgery" do you mean taking gunpowder from another bullet, putting it in the hole and lighting it on fire to cauterize the wound? In severe cases, using a syringe (or pen or other implement) to remove excess air from the chest cavity?
LOLOL. Well. As a retired E.M.T. I can deal in facts and not hyperbole.

I know nothing of cauterizing wounds that way.

I can state as a fact that New York state the EMT training includes emergency field treatment for a sucking chest wound that includes use of a needle, and I can inform that I know how to do an emergency tracheotomy in the street using a hard piece of tubing or ballpoint pen.

Not made up. Just the facts.

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Old 02-19-2018, 05:17 PM
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Considering the concept killed James Garfield in 1881, it hardly originated in Hollywood.

The bullet that hit him would have been fine left alone, but the attempts to find it (including sticking dirty fingers into the wound) let to the infection that killed him.
Indeed. Here's a fascinating article by Ronald Reagan's physician on how he would have treated Presidential shootings in the past. Note, in the Garfield section, he says he probably wouldn't have removed the bullet because its location (back muscle) posed no imminent threat--and using surgery and anesthesia would be more risky than the bullet itself.
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Old 02-20-2018, 10:29 AM
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Both Garfield and McKinley died mainly because of the infection produced by their wounds, rather than the damage done by the bullet itself. In Garfield's case in particular the repeated probing of his wound by doctors with unsterilized fingers and instruments as they searched for the bullet helped promote the infection that killed him. He might have done better if they had just patched him up and never tried to find the bullet.
And there were thousands of Civil War veterans with bullets and shrapnel lodged in their bodies alive at that time, so they should have known better.
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Old 02-20-2018, 11:10 AM
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It's really annoying how many otherwise fine movies are damaged by the "must remove bullet" trope. Doubly so because, as noted, they amateur surgeons never repair the real damage (sew up blood vessels, replace lost blood, whatever) once the bullet has plinked into the dish.

To really make you mad, go read "Destiny of the Republic". I want to invent a time machine just to go back and beat those "doctors" with a club. European doctors knew about germs and the need for cleanliness while operating, but the American doctors knew better! They weren't going to let any quiche-eating eurotrash folk tell THEM how to practice medicine! They knew washing hands and tools made things worse. A doctor who was clean and not covered with blood and guts obviously wasn't much of a doctor.

Last edited by Just Asking Questions; 02-20-2018 at 11:10 AM.
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Old 02-20-2018, 11:24 AM
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Unlike the Hollywood portrayal (except maybe George Clooney's talk to his men in Three Kings), the bullet being in your body is not the problem. It's been sterilized in the barrel and from its flight through the atmosphere.
The rear of the bullet is briefly exposed to the searing heat of the propellant, but do the sides of the bullet make firm enough contact with the gun barrel to be reliably stripped of microbes?

And does the atmosphere (moving past at several hundred m/s) really strip the front of the bullet clean as well?
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Old 02-20-2018, 11:31 AM
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Nah, the real reason Teddy didn't have the bullet removed is that, if they had tried, his body would have forced it out so violently that it would have ended up shooting one of the doctors, a fate that was only prevented by the intervening invulnerable barrier of Roosevelt flesh. Totally true fact that I just made up.
I heard the bullet never gave Teddy any trouble because it instantly recognized his superior lethality and fell in love with him.
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Old 02-20-2018, 04:32 PM
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[QUOTE=Cartooniverse;20798730]LOLOL. Well. As a retired E.M.T. I can deal in facts and not hyperbole.

I know nothing of cauterizing wounds that way.


Apparently it's actually a thing
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eerOKfiOuQ4


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I can state as a fact that New York state the EMT training includes emergency field treatment for a sucking chest wound that includes use of a needle, and I can inform that I know how to do an emergency tracheotomy in the street using a hard piece of tubing or ballpoint pen.
Sure, but A) You're a trained EMT and B) I assume your patients aren't up kicking ass minutes later.




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The rear of the bullet is briefly exposed to the searing heat of the propellant, but do the sides of the bullet make firm enough contact with the gun barrel to be reliably stripped of microbes?

And does the atmosphere (moving past at several hundred m/s) really strip the front of the bullet clean as well?
I would assume that the entire bullet would heat up from both the propellant and the friction of moving through the atmosphere at several hundred m/s).
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Old 02-20-2018, 05:28 PM
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But would it heat up enough to sterilize?
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Old 02-20-2018, 06:00 PM
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To really make you mad, go read "Destiny of the Republic". I want to invent a time machine just to go back and beat those "doctors" with a club. European doctors knew about germs and the need for cleanliness while operating, but the American doctors knew better! They weren't going to let any quiche-eating eurotrash folk tell THEM how to practice medicine! They knew washing hands and tools made things worse. A doctor who was clean and not covered with blood and guts obviously wasn't much of a doctor.
Hate to bring him up twice in the same thread, but I'm pretty sure it was Theodore Roosevelt that forced the issue of germs, bacteria and cleanliness on the army during the building of the Panama Canal. From there is finally spread to the American Medical Community.
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Old 02-20-2018, 10:41 PM
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Originally Posted by What Exit? View Post
Hate to bring him up twice in the same thread, but I'm pretty sure it was Theodore Roosevelt that forced the issue of germs, bacteria and cleanliness on the army during the building of the Panama Canal. From there is finally spread to the American Medical Community.
Makes me wonder: could his caring about germs in an era when others didn't have been part of what made him seem an indestructible badass?
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Old 02-20-2018, 11:19 PM
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Colibri Colibri is offline
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Originally Posted by What Exit? View Post
Hate to bring him up twice in the same thread, but I'm pretty sure it was Theodore Roosevelt that forced the issue of germs, bacteria and cleanliness on the army during the building of the Panama Canal. From there is finally spread to the American Medical Community.
I've never heard that it was Roosevelt who had anything to do with that. The issue with the building of the Panama Canal was not germs or bacteria per se, but diseases that were spread by mosquitoes like malaria and yellow fever. The US, under the direction of William Gorgas, "cleaned up" Panama City and the Canal Zone, but it was to get rid of mosquito breeding areas, not to get rid of germs directly.
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Old 02-21-2018, 12:09 AM
Dr_Paprika Dr_Paprika is offline
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Bullet wounds aren’t sterile.

Lots of bullets have an entry point and an exit point.

If it is lodged, it matters if it has hit a nerve or blood vessel, organ, bone, joint, etc. I’ve seen someone die from a bullet fragment that embolizes to the heart. If it is in fatty flesh, it might be tough to get out (but easier under ultrasound or fluoroscopy).

If there are many pieces, the smaller and anatomically safe pieces might well be ignored.

Bullets close to the heart, brain and spinal column make trauma teams nervous.
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Last edited by Dr_Paprika; 02-21-2018 at 12:11 AM. Reason: Not done!
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Old 02-21-2018, 12:25 AM
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I know an Aussie who was shot in the face in Thailand about 1990 and claims still to be carrying the bullet in his head.
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Old 02-21-2018, 06:56 AM
Machine Elf Machine Elf is offline
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Originally Posted by msmith537 View Post
I would assume that the entire bullet would heat up from both the propellant and the friction of moving through the atmosphere at several hundred m/s).
Assuming the bullet is moving at the speed of sound (about right for a handgun), and assuming an ambient temp of about 70F, adiabatic heating due to compression will generate a temp of around 150F at the very flattest part of the front of the bullet; the temp will be lower everywhere else. The bullet material itself is cold, so exposure to 150F air for a few milliseconds won't heat up the surface very much; any bacteria there will do just fine. Contrast this with an autoclave, which applies moist heat at about 250F for 15-20 minutes to achieve true sterilization.

Even if we suppose the bullet is truly sterile, the target's skin is not - unless the shooter was courteous enough to swab the target's skin with Betadine for a few minutes before shooting him.
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Old 02-21-2018, 11:18 AM
Really Not All That Bright Really Not All That Bright is offline
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Foreign bodies which are left in muscle tissue eventually become encapsulated by scar tissue and can remain asymptomatic for years or decades. Absent infection, they are usually only a problem when they are close to sensitive areas (major blood vessels, organs) or they migrate to those areas over time; or, when their location prevents angiogenesis, or the "re-routing" of blood vessels around the foreign obstruction. the body reacts to internal prostheses the same way it does to bullets or other foreign matter, except that protheses are generally sterile.
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Old 02-21-2018, 01:47 PM
msmith537 msmith537 is offline
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Originally Posted by Machine Elf View Post
Assuming the bullet is moving at the speed of sound (about right for a handgun), and assuming an ambient temp of about 70F, adiabatic heating due to compression will generate a temp of around 150F at the very flattest part of the front of the bullet; the temp will be lower everywhere else. The bullet material itself is cold, so exposure to 150F air for a few milliseconds won't heat up the surface very much; any bacteria there will do just fine. Contrast this with an autoclave, which applies moist heat at about 250F for 15-20 minutes to achieve true sterilization.

Even if we suppose the bullet is truly sterile, the target's skin is not - unless the shooter was courteous enough to swab the target's skin with Betadine for a few minutes before shooting him.


I did some searching. Apparently someone actually did a study by firing contaminated bullets into sterile ballistics gel. I don't have an account to read anything more than the abstract. But it would appear that the in-flight conditions of a bullet do not guarantee sterilization.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/621766
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