Q&A: Arrow Wound First Aid

Hi, I have a question! So, say a character were to get shot with an arrow in, say, the lower leg, below the knee, and it stays there. How would it be treated? And isn’t it a bad idea to just yank an arrow out the same way it’s bad to take a bullet out? Thanks!

The rational is similar, though it’s slightly more analogous to treating a knife wound.

So, if you’re hit by an arrow, your first priority is to minimize the bleeding. You want to keep pressure on the wound, while applying a bandage. However, at this point, there is a very important consideration. If the arrow shaft is embedded in the injury, it needs to be stabilized to prevent further injury.

Do not remove the arrow, regardless of whether it has cleanly penetrated, or is wedged in the wound. Do not try to move the arrow at all unless it is absolutely necessary. Pack the bandage around it.

One thing that could be considered a positive on the treatment side is that the arrow will tend to pin the victim’s muscles together, meaning it will partially immobilize the victim. On one hand, this will help keep them from moving around, and can help stabilize the arrow shaft.

Much like with knife wounds, there’s a real possibility that the arrow head is limiting the bleeding. Moving it around, or removing it, can cause additional damage, or disrupt the clotting process.

Once bleeding has been minimized (or, ideally, stopped), and the arrow has been stabilized, you need to get immediate medical attention for the victim. In a surgical environment, the arrow can be safely removed. If you have an arrowhead that matches the one in the victim, it can be helpful to provide that to medical personnel. The arrowhead would let them know what to expect in the victim’s injury, and may help them identify if parts have broken off. However, this will only apply in situations where you have direct access to those arrowheads. (Mainly, hunting and sporting accidents, not combat.)

It’s a little different with bullets, because you will cause additional damage digging around to remove it. There’s also a risk of fragmentation. The end result is similar, but the reasoning is slightly different.

In either case, it’s best to leave the foreign object in the victim and get medical attention. The projectile will need to come out, but there’s a real risk of life threatening bleeding, meaning doing so outside of a surgical environment is a very bad idea.

-Starke

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