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Gunshot Wound to the Spine
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
A GSW to the spine may cause damage to your spinal cord or vertebrae.
Call 911 for any of the following:
- You feel lightheaded, short of breath, and have chest pain.
- You cough up blood.
- You have trouble breathing.
Seek care immediately if:
- Blood soaks through your bandage.
- Your wound comes apart.
- Your arm or leg feels warm, tender, and painful. It may look swollen and red.
- You have weakness in your arms or legs or are unable to walk.
Contact your healthcare provider if:
- You have a fever.
- Your wound is red, swollen, or draining pus.
- You have nausea or are vomiting.
- You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.
You may need any of the following:
- Prescription pain medicine may be given. Ask your healthcare provider how to take this medicine safely.
- Antibiotics may be given to help treat or prevent an infection caused by bacteria.
- NSAIDs , such as ibuprofen, help decrease swelling, pain, and fever. This medicine is available with or without a doctor's order. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people. If you take blood thinner medicine, always ask your healthcare provider if NSAIDs are safe for you. Always read the medicine label and follow directions.
- Take your medicine as directed. Contact your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him or her if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.
- Do range of motion (ROM) exercises as directed. Your healthcare provider may show you or your caregiver how to perform ROM exercises. ROM exercises may prevent your arms or legs from getting stiff or permanently bent.
- Use medical equipment as directed. You may need to use medical equipment, such as a wheelchair, after a GSW to your spine. Ask your healthcare provider how to use medical equipment.
- Physical therapy and occupational therapy may help you improve muscle strength or relearn how to perform activities of daily living (ADLs) after a spinal cord injury. ADLs include bathing, feeding, and getting dressed.
- Care for your wound as directed. Remove your bandage before showering unless your healthcare provider tells you not to. Carefully wash the wound with soap and water. Dry the area and put on new, clean bandages as directed. Change your bandages when they get wet or dirty. Monitor your wound for signs of infection such as redness, swelling, or pus.
- If you have an open wound, do not shower or get your wound wet unless your healthcare provider says it is okay. Change the packing and bandage as directed. You may need to clean or rinse your wound each time you change the packing. Wash your hands before you remove packing and again before you place new packing. Ask your healthcare provider how to care for your open wound.
- Negative pressure wound therapy (NPWT) uses a machine called a wound vac, wound vacuum, or pump to help with wound healing. Suction from the machine removes excess drainage from your wound and pulls wound edges closer together. NPWT promotes healthy tissue growth by increasing blood flow to your wound. NPWT also reduces bacteria that cause infections. You and your healthcare providers will be taught about your specific NPWT machine, alarms, and dressing changes.
It is normal to have difficult and unexpected feelings after being shot or having spinal cord damage. You may have feelings such as anger, depression, fear, or anxiety. You may have nightmares or continue to think about what has happened. Talk to your healthcare provider if you have any of these feelings. Treatments are available to help you.
Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:
Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.
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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.
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