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Straight, No Chaser: Your Questions About Gunshot and Stab Wounds

By Jeffrey Sterling, MD October 21, 2018

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SW

Your Top Five Questions:
1. Why don’t we remove the bullets every time? 
Removing bullets may cause more damage than leaving them in the body. Sometimes it’s not worth the effort.
2. What’s with the tubes that go in the chest?
Chest tubes are used to treat a pneumothorax (a collapsed lung). The problem is there’s air in the space between the lung and the chest wall. This can interfere with normal breathing and may be life threatening. The tubes go through the chest wall to release the air from that space, thus allowing re-expansion of the lungs.
3. Why would doctors ever need to slit someone’s throat to save his or her life?
That describes either a cricothyrotomy or a tracheostomy, and it’s not “slitting” the throat as much as it is creating an opening in the airway to permit airflow. This is usually necessary because of some airway obstruction at the upper throat (foreign body in the throat, etc.) with an inability to clear it. This procedure is only done to save a life.
4. Why would you die from a wound to the thigh?
Fractures of certain bones and laceration of certain blood vessels might cause so much blood loss that you could bleed to death. Infection and blood clots are additional considerations that could be life-threatening.
5. What about gunshot or stab wounds to someone pregnant?
Penetrating trauma to the abdomen is typically less fatal to the mother than to a fetus because the fetus is literally acting as a shield. In the event any wound has placed the mother’s life at risk or the mother has died from the wound, under certain extreme circumstances, an emergency C-section may be performed to save the baby.
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