View Full Version : Bullet not removed causes?

12-27-2008, 02:52 AM
What would a person suffer from exactly if they were shot in the side and the bullet stayed in their body?

This would be revolution era bullet, not a modern one. The injured person has no idea what a gun is or that there is an object inside the wound. It gets cleaned and stitched up, end of story.

I'm assuming infection, but what else could happen in such a situation?

12-27-2008, 03:08 AM
Just the other day I read/heard somewhere that many times the infection came from poking around to get the bullet, that the bullet was hot enough going in to take care of that. Have no idea if that is true, nor do I remember if it was in another thread or where I heard it.

I do know my dad had shrapnel (World War II) that was left in him and remained there until he died at 87. Pieces of it moved around over the years. One worked its way to near the surface & was removed. Another (about the size of an English Walnut) noticeably bulged on his arm, but he wasn't in any danger from it so it was never removed. Assuming it would be the same with older bullets.

12-27-2008, 03:11 AM
Bullets (and shrapnel) don't have to be removed unless they are causing trouble (e.g. pressing on a nerve). They are sterile, and infection generally is caused by someone trying to get the bullet out, or by rupture of a non-sterile organ (intestines). Someone shot in colonial times would probably die if the intestines were ruptured, whether or not the bullet is removed.

12-27-2008, 03:12 AM
Oh. Well that's interesting. I'm sort of planning for this character to die...

Bullet=lead, so would it give her lead poisoning at least?

12-27-2008, 03:16 AM
It is possible to get lead poisoning from a bullet, but it's very rare. Usually the body forms a capsule of scar tissue around a foreign object within days to weeks, and nothing goes in or out of the capsule. Rare is good enough for a novel, though!

12-27-2008, 03:24 AM
On further thought, now that I know more about bullets remaining in the body, I'm considering organ puncture being the actual cause of death. Lead poisoning is still promising also.

Let's say the bullet tears her intestines though. What would happen and how quickly?

12-27-2008, 03:35 AM
If there's no significant blood loss or essential organ injury, the person would get infectious peritonitis within hours and die within days. If the injury is to the stomach, the peritonitis would be sooner (from the digestive fluids rather than bacteria) and the person would die within hours. Horribly.

12-27-2008, 10:17 AM
Many times the infection from a gunshot wound in revolutionary times was caused by the wadding entering the wound with the bullet. Wadding had a lubricant put on it to make the bullet travel easier through the barrel and to help contain the gasses from the burning powder to help expel the bullet faster. Many times the wadding falls away from the bullet, but just as often it didnt. Many times gangrene resulted and amputation was the only cure.

yer pal Brian

12-27-2008, 10:32 AM
Wouldn't a Revolution era "bullet" be a ball? It's not the same as a high velocity round from a modern weapon. It would definitely be lead.

Linda Adams
12-27-2008, 04:25 PM
This might help: Revolutionary War Medicine (http://www.amazon.com/Revolutionary-Medicine-Illustrated-Living-History/dp/0762701390/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1230380679&sr=8-2).

12-27-2008, 06:38 PM
Wouldn't a Revolution era "bullet" be a ball? It's not the same as a high velocity round from a modern weapon. It would definitely be lead.

I've stayed out of this firefight so far because I'm no wound expert. Yes, most American Revolution muskets and rifles fired spherical lead balls. However, the term "bullet" from the French "boulette" for small "boule" or ball was in use, as well as "round" and "ball."

It wasn't until 1848 that French army Captain Claude …. Miniť created the Miniť ball, a pointed projectile in what we now call "bullet-shaped."

Edit: The Miniť ball sounds like one of my shabby attempts at humor, so I came back with documentation:


12-27-2008, 08:56 PM
In the Old West when they said someone died of 'lead poisoning' they didn't mean literally poisoned by the lead. They meant someone had been shot.