How common are gunshot wounds?
From 2004 to 2010, there were 60 confirmed unintentional firearm deaths in Oklahoma, an average of 9 deaths per year. Half of those deaths were among men and boys 25 years old and younger. Overall, the leading circumstances surrounding those deaths were: playing with a gun (37 percent); showing a gun to another person (18 percent) and hunting (15 percent).
Firearms were used in the majority of the homicides and suicides in Oklahoma from 2004 to 2009. Compared to female residents, male residents had almost four times more suicides, three times more homicides, almost 13 times more legal interventions, and 13 times more unintentional firearm deaths.
If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, a 24-hour, toll-free, confidential suicide prevention hotline at (800) 273-8255.
What happens to the body?
A bullet entering the body does more than injure whatever is along its path of trajectory. The blast energy when a bullet hits produces heat. That transfer of heat can cause damage along with the impact injury that the bullet will cause, as well. For example, a bullet can hit near a person’s abdomen but never actually enter the abdomen and still cause a bowel injury because of the heat transmitted from the bullet.
How is a gunshot treated?
It depends on the location. To begin, doctors will look at what organs and structures are closest to the bullet, and if they can, they’ll determine what path the bullet took.
Some gunshot wounds will require surgery. For example, if someone is shot in the abdomen, they will typically be taken to the operating room to explore what injuries they have. With a gunshot wound in a person’s abdomen, doctors generally don’t know what was hit or injured until they open someone up. The most pressing injuries will be tended to first.
A bullet will not always be removed. Sometimes it does more damage to remove the bullet than to leave it. And over time, the body could recognize the bullet as a foreign object and move it to the surface of the body, making it easier and safer to remove.
Time is important in trauma, with some referring to the “Golden Hour” of trauma, arguing people treated within an hour typically have better outcomes than trauma patients who don’t reach the hospital as swiftly.
What’s the recovery time?
A patient with a soft-tissue injury without any other injuries might go home after less than a day at the hospital. Meanwhile, a person with multiple injuries might spend months in the hospital and in a recovery center.
Overall, recovery time will vary widely, depending on where a person was shot, what kind of care they receive and what their overall health was. A 20-something person might recover better and more quickly than an older person who suffers from heart disease and diabetes.
Sources: Dr. William Havron, a trauma surgeon at OU Medical Center; the Oklahoma State Department of Health.