How important is it to remove a bullet from a GSW?

…Not that I really “need to know,” or anything. At least, not until the morphine wears off :D.

But seriously, I’m inspired to ask by what has become almost cliched in movies…the desperate removal of a bullet, “acquired” during a gunfight. This cliche is centered around people who are fleeing from the law/villains/both, and have to dig the bullet out with a pocketknife and a candle. And sometimes not the candle.

And, obviously, this has to be rooted at least a little in valid science…witness the sad fate of President Garfield.

On the other hand…it’s thought that Garfield might only have died from the trauma of the multiple surgeries that were undertaken to try and find the bullet, which had been surrounded by a cyst.

So, back to the question…how important is it to remove a bullet from a gunshot wound?

First off IANAD, but I have been shot…for what that’s worth.

One reason would be to stop the bleeding as soon as possible.
A bullet lodged in an open wound usually causes increased bleeding. Applying pressure will only do so much to stop bleeding. There’s usually going to be some surgery involved. AND stitches…lots of stitches.
Also, the wound has to be cleaned thoroughly to prevent infection.

A chunk of lead would more than likely lead to an infection…then there’s the possibility of future lead poisoning I suppose.

If the bullet is close to an artery, vital organ, nerve, spinal chord, etc. it could travel/move and create further complications.

The only reason to NOT remove it AFAIK would be if removal would cause more damage/death than leaving it.

These reasons seem rather obvious to me, perhaps a doctor will show up later.

My father was shot in a mugging a few years ago, and one of the bullets was lodged in his hipbone. The doctors decided that it would be too difficult to get it out of there, and it would just work its way out of the bone over time, and then it would be easier to remove. Sure enough, a few months later my dad had a nice bullet just under the skin at his hip. He’d let people touch it and play around with it. Shortly afterwards it was removed. But there didn’t seem to be a huge hurry by the doctors to remove it.

Andrew Jackson was shot in a duel (he killed the other duellist) and the bullet remained with him for many, many years. He finally had it removed while in the White House. Given today’s medicine, though, I imagine that bullets are more often removed if at all possible.