First Aid/Gunshot wound to the leg


I am writing a fanfiction where the characters are shipwrecked on a tropical island. One of them (a 25 year old female) is shot in the thigh from a Glock. The bullet nicked the vein (not the artery), but was removed and the vein repaired by a doctor - one of the other characters. They have some medical supplies and drugs from the sickbay of the yacht they were on.

My questions are as follows: How long would a person have to remain off the leg before they could begin to put weight on it and walk with assistance such as a cane? Would some type of physio be required? What could be done to prevent infection? Could walking on the leg too soon, cause the repaired vein to leak?

Thanks in advance, Karen

Hi Karen,

The biggest problems with this type of wound will be infection, infection, infection and blood clots.  A person can begin moving as soon as necessary if they are in imminent danger, however it would be best to wait unit the wound is closed.  Traveling on the injured leg will tend to open the wound up, tear the sutures and cause more bleeding.  The nature of a bullet wound is for the foreign object to pass into the leg, carrying with it any germs that are attached and explosively opening a hole into the leg.  Bullets tend to tumble and ricochet once in the body, causing additional damage.  If it passes all the way through, it will cause an even bigger hole in the other side.  If, as you say, the bullet was removed, the doctor on site will have removed it under non-sterile conditions, allowing any and all germs on his instruments, sutures, needles, retractors, forceps, in the air and even on the bandages to enter the wound.  And damage to a  vein can be just as deadly as to an artery, although blood in the veins at that point is traveling up instead of down and is not under quite as much pressure.  

Personally I would write it without the nicked artery as the chances of survival of this type of surgery in hot, moist conditions is extremely low.  

To answer you other question, physical therapy would consist of keeping the leg limber by forced movement and walking with support (for example with the help of the doctor or others, a walker, crutches, a cane, etc. )  Having just gone through some leg surgery myself, I can tell you that it will take about two weeks for the wound to close, if it is without infection.  However if infection sets in under the circumstances you describe, I would suspect the doctor would end up having to amputate if gangrene set in.

Likewise when someone is inactive from surgery, there is a very good chance that they may get blood clots in their legs.  These can break loose and travel to the lungs or brains and cause devastating and/or deadly events.  Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) causes debilitating strokes and death.  A good treatment for that would be a blood thinner like aspirin, but remember a blood thinner will also keep a wound from clotting and thus healing.  

Please feel free to ask me any other specifics or look up any of the terms I have used.  You may also want to look at photographs by searching "gunshot wound leg" or "gunshot wound thigh" on google or bing or another search engine.  That way you can see what a wound like this looks like and have an actual description to give your readers.  You should be able to find a description of emergency treatment for a gunshot wound by searching for it with the term "wilderness survival".  

Good luck and keep me updated.


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K Fairweather


First aid, CPR, emergency first aid, wilderness treatments, child safety, auto safety, triage, burns, mass casualty incidents, asthma, disaster survival first aid, first aid kits, first aid supplies, fire safety, burns, first aid training.


Twenty years first aid and CPR instructor for American Red Cross, EMT training and licensing, practical experience, clumsiness.

AA Amarillo COllege EMT Texas BS University of North Texas

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