May 22nd, 2007


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Discussion (17)¬

  1. WuseMajor says:

    I’ve heard a number of conflicting reports about what to do with arrow wounds. I’m curious what the Veiled should have done here.

  2. Sarah says:

    It depends on the type of arrow and where it’s lodged. A modern target shooting arrow doesn’t have a barbed head, so you can just pull it out carefully on the same angle it went in. A hunting or fighting arrow, though, has a barbed head to make it lodge firmly in the flesh, which is why people snap off the shaft to reduce painful waggling and then try to ease or cut it out neatly. A temporary bandage can be applied around the stump of the arrow until more detailed medical attention (e.g. cutting it out neatly) is available. Sometimes you can just push the arrow the rest of the way through, the way you would with a fish-hook snagged in your finger, cut off the barbed end and then pull out the shaft, but that depends on the part of the body the arrow is stuck into. You could do it through the fleshy part of a limb, you shouldn’t try to do it through a joint or in the torso.
    I think Digger just fainted from pain, because the pressure on the shaft as the guy snapped it off would have been pretty noticeable in the wound.

  3. Domino says:

    …I’m not sure if the idea of a person with such a cute name as Sarah knowing about arrows in body parts should terrify me or not. Still….good to know…

  4. Rai says:

    I like Serah’s explenation. But, it has to be clarified that unless it’s a seriouse emergency where the wooden shaft would cause an infection or further damange removal in the feild is strongly discuraged. You should wrap something AROUND and not ontop of the shaft to prevent further movement. In other words, PLEASE allow medical professionals to remove the arrow.

  5. Werrf says:

    …are we planning on getting shot with arrows frequently, then?

  6. Eugene says:

    Of course we were! Didn’t you get the memo?

  7. TekServer says:

    Yep, this is what happens when you go from “reasonably excruciating” to “unreasonably excruciating” (see last pane).


  8. BunnyRock says:

    May i offer a medieval surgeons advice? I believe this is the protocol used by the English for removing the crossbow bolts from Genovesse mercenaries at Agincourt. Except the original was in french, on account of the kings of England being mostly french at this point so it was the learned mans language (Latin would be a little too learned for mere surgeons) Ive also added a commentary.

    “Soak the shaft in honey and water until the wood swell and soften,” (good plan honey is antiseptic)

    “Grip the shaft below the flights and once the wood has swollen and burst from the socket in the iron head, remove swiftly and with vigor” (this recipe presumes the arrow head is socketed and the wood tapers to a point the fits inside the socket- if it doesn’t your stuck)

    “Take fine pliers of bronze or iron and file them down to the same shape as the wooden shafts tip, but slightly smaller in size. Place them in the wound evacuated by the shaft so they fit within the socket.”

    “Open up the pliers so that they push on the walls of the socket from the inside and grip it tight. Withdraw the head thought the path by which it entereth, turning so barbs do not snag but stay withing the grove of their own making.” (sounds fiddly if you ask me, like picking up a shot glass by sticking two fingers inside it and pushing them apart, but indies some who ia screaming in pain. and its a barbed shot glass)

    “Cauterize the wound with Iron or Hot Wine and bind. Give of the wounded man a broth of Wine, Poppy Milk, Hemlock and Boar’s bile.” (well the wine and Poppy milk [opium] would help, but note there are no dosages given and the line between hemlock being negligible, a useful painkiller and aid to sleep, and a lethal poison is very, very small. And i have no idea what the boar bile does, but i guess that as wine is red under the theory of the for Humors it is sanguine, and Poppy is melancholic and hemlock is Phlegmatic, so they probably thought you needed some cholic yellow bile to even the mix up. Personally I’d bind with moldy bread, and add instructions like “wash your hands” and “heat the surgical tools over a flame before use” but that’s the bonus of nearly eight hundred years of hindsight).

  9. jaynee says:

    That was fascinating, BunnyRock. Ta muchly.

  10. Dan D says:

    I can’t find a clear description, but the ancient greeks apparently used a surgical spoon (spoon of Diocles) or split tubes (reeds maybe?) to push into the wound, over the head and withdraw that way. Not fun for the patient, but gets the barbs out without tearing up the flesh any more.

  11. Arrkhal says:

    Given that arrows actually tend to pass completely through more often than not, when armor isn’t involved (only takes about a 60 pound draw weight bow to reliably shoot a broadhead completely through both shoulderblades and the ribcage of a deer at close range, which should indicate just how crappy of a crossbow that was), and that bullets tend to carry pieces of clothing into the wound, there’s probably no practical difference in infection potential.

    The main danger is a surgeon who has no clue what causes infection. Stitching up any puncture wound without appropriate antibiotics is a hugely bad idea, since that prevents proper drainage, and allows anaerobic bacteria to thrive. Wound closure is a big tradeoff. A stitched wound will heal faster under ideal conditions, but will kill faster if an anaerobic infection sets in.

    Generally, your best bet without a decent antibiotic is to leave a wound open and exposed to the air as much as possible, and flush several times a day with the best antiseptic you’ve got (honey [peroxide], wine [ethanol], fresh urine [ammonia], water with sphagum moss steeped in it [iodine], etc.).

    Moldy bread is a good idea if you’re going to use stitches, even if it’s not a pencillin species, since an anaerobic, alcohol-producing yeast would prevent nastier things from growing. Hm. I think unpasteurized sour milk or yoghurt would also work well, as lactobacillus are anaerobic, relatively harmless, and produce lactic acid, which is toxic to most other bacteria but practically harmless to vertebrates. I wonder if there’s any historical precedent?

  12. CyberCorn Entropic says:

    Once the arrowhead’s out, you can simply pack the wound with powdered cayenne. It’ll stop the bleeding, feed the damaged tissue, kill infection, and accelerate healing. It’s successfully healed worse wounds than the one Digger ended up with, as I know from experience.

  13. Elkian says:

    …and let it get more or less permanently stuck in her shoulder. Good going guys.

  14. BunnyRock says:

    @ Arrkhal: not in Western Europe, for wound-cleaning, as far as i Can tell. But lactobacillus was deliberately introduced to mammoth meat which was then weighted down in pools of water to preserve it in the Palaeolithic steeps and plains of the north sea. As most large carnivores scavengers, wolves especially do not care for the smell of lactobacillus it prevents them looting the meat and preserves it reasonably well. There is some mention of yogurt used medicinally in Arabic sources, but how it was used is unclear. And I can attest to the documented use of very fresh urine as a battlefield seizing agent at Agincourt, as it was recorded common solders did this. No matter how good this is, I doubt it would be used on anyone who could afford a surgeon: Medieval society was obsessed with wealth and status in a way that no society no matter how plutocratic today could match. Established medical wisdom held that the bodies of commoners and nobles worked in entirety different ways. A noble mad was entitled to more refined and finer food as his body PHYSICALY COULD NOT handle Corse, rough foods. Likewise giving overly rich or heavily processed food to a labourer would make him sick (hence why most of the vegetables mediaeval lords ate was either puréed or cooked until all the vitamins had long-since fled). The same was held to be true with medicine: treatments that worked on peasants were held not to work on noblemen and visa versa. Garlic was fine for binding to the viruses or warts of peasants, but nobles required hot compresses of expensive imported cinnamon, clove, grain-of-paradise and poppy seed (none of which, unlike Garlic, actually worked). Indeed there are report that surgeons, if they had just ran out of the way-with-all to treat a nobleman, sometimes left noble patients to die untreated rather than use the same cures they would sue on a peasant: it wouldn’t work (they believed), it was a waste of time and materials (they believed), the nobleman would be insulted (true), and if they intervened with a treatments widely believed to be harmful to Nobles and he then died, they’d be in a lot more trouble than if you said “nothing a surgeon can do, fetch a priest” (VERY true).

  15. BunnyRock says:

    Sorry for the double post chaps and chapesses. “Viruses or warts” should read “vurucaus or warts”. Possibly the only time I’ve seen spell check replace the word I’ve wanted with the CAUSE of the word I’ve wanted (note spell check still can’t find the correct spelling of vurucaus from any of the flailing dyslexic attempts I’ve made. It’s exactly this sort of thing that lead to the “enchiladas milk” comment) . If it keeps this up I may suspect it of having evolved some rudimentary intelligence.

  16. Lord the 22nd says:

    Contrary to everyone else, my post is about Shadowchild. I think it should say ‘slither slither’ rather than ‘shuffle’, judging from how he looks as he makes his sneaky escape.

  17. The Procrastinator says:

    CyberCorn Entropic, you have me intrigued. “It’s successfully healed worse wounds […] as I know from experience”. Personal experience?

    BunnyRock, I think you’re looking for “verrucas”. Well, not looking for them as such… You know what I mean.

    I’ve never tried to remove arrows from flesh, but BunnyRock’s mediaeval guide sounds rather like what I use when a target head gets more stuck in a straw target than it is to the arrow. Apart from the fact that you generally have to go digging with a knife in order to find and get a good grip on the head with the pliers, which may not be advisable in a medical context.