Tag Archives: Gunshot Wound

Basic First Aid Following a Gunshot Wound

A former attending emergency medicine physician at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, California, Dr. Zachary Lutsky has been practicing medicine for more than 10 years. Over the course of his career, Dr. Zachary Lutsky has managed and treated patients suffered from a variety of traumatic injuries, including gunshot wounds.

Although many people never have to deal with a gunshot wound, knowing a few basic first aid techniques for promoting survival following such an injury is important. As soon as you or someone near you is shot, the first step is to always get to safety and call 911. Once this is done, focus on stopping the bleeding. While gunshot wounds primarily cause internal damage, external bleeding is the only aspect of the injury you can help with if you’re untrained.

With gunshot wounds, the bleeding is typically coming from a hole. Using a clean cloth, gauze, or any other fabric available when a kit is not present, place pressure directly on the wound. For wounds that are deep, pack some of the cloth into the wound. Make sure the entire wound is sealed by the fabric and do not reduce pressure until paramedics arrive on the scene. Further, don’t be scared about using your knee to provide even more pressure if the wound is still bleeding.

In addition to applying pressure directly to the wound, use a tourniquet when the wound is on a limb. Place the tourniquet about two to three inches above the wound and pull it as tight as you can. When properly placed, these devices are usually very uncomfortable and even painful, but they can be essential for stopping the bleeding from a wound. It’s important that you remember to only use a tourniquet when it’s a professional one. Since improvised tourniquets often fail, it’s better if you apply continuous pressure directly to the wound instead.

Treating a Gunshot Wound


Zachary Lutsky
Zachary Lutsky

Dr. Zachary Lutsky worked at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, California, a level 1 trauma Center, where he was an attending physician. In this role, Dr. Zachary Lutsky handled all manner of emergency medical issues, including the treatment of gunshot wounds.

Due to its unusual and unpredictable nature, a gunshot wound requires significant care in treatment, and no two are ever quite alike. They can change significantly due to location, projectile size, and projectile speed. Initial care for gunshot wounds, before surgical options begin, must pay attention to these issues.

Positioning the patient appropriately can help save a life. If the gunshot wound is above the waist but not in the arm, the patient’s legs should not be elevated, as this can increase bleeding. Patients should be in a comfortable position if conscious or be placed in the recovery position if unconscious or unresponsive. They should also avoid eating or drinking once injured.

At the hospital, gunshot wounds will generally be treated like other puncture wounds, barring complications from related injuries such as broken bones or bullet fragments. The patient should be in an ambulance or at a medical facility within 10 minutes of the injury.