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Why a Bullet in the Hip Can Be So Damaging

Congressman Steve Scalise remains in critical condition today, after being shot in the hip on Wednesday (June 14). Although the public may perceive a bullet to the hip as being less serious than say, one to the chest or head, doctors say a gunshot wound to the pelvic area can cause life-threatening injuries.

Scalise, who is 51, was injured during a shooting this week at a practice for the annual Congressional Baseball Game for Charity. He sustained a single rifle bullet to the hip, and the bullet traveled across his pelvis, leading to fractured bones, internal organ injuries and severe bleeding, according to a statement from MedStar Washington Hospital Center, the hospital that is treating Scalise.

So far, Scalise has received multiple blood transfusions and undergone several surgeries. In a news conference today (June 16), Dr. Jack Sava, director of trauma at the hospital, said that Scalise is still in intensive care, and will likely remain in the hospital for weeks. But he said that the congressman has a “good possibility” of making an excellent recovery.

A gunshot wound to the hip can be life-threatening because there are many important structures in that area of that body that could be injured.

“There are a lot of arteries and vital organs that live either in the hip, or in the pelvis [area] itself,” said Dr. David Evans, an associate professor of surgery at Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, who has not treated Scalise. These include the iliac arteries, which are major arteries that carry blood from the torso to the legs, as well as organs such as the bladder, rectum and reproductive organs, Evans said. A bullet could also cause bone fractures in the hip or pelvis. [5 Milestones in Gun Control History]

One of the first things that a surgeon would determine when treating a patient with a bullet wound to the hip is which direction the bullet traveled across the body, Evans said. Doctors may use X-rays or look for an exit wound to determine the bullet’s…

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