Perhaps no chapter of military surgery was looked forward to with more eager interest than that dealing with wounds of the abdomen. In none was greater expectation indulged in with regard to probable advance in active surgical treatment, and in none did greater disappointment lie in store for us.
Wounds of the solid viscera, it is true, proved to be of minor importance when produced by bullets of small calibre; but wounds of the intestinal tract, although they showed themselves capable of spontaneous recovery in a certain proportion of the cases observed, afforded but slight opportunity for surgical skill, and results generally deviated but slightly from those of past experience. Such success as was met with depended rather on the mechanical genesis and nature of the wounds than upon the efforts of the surgeon, and operative surgery scored but few successes.
It is true that to the Civil Surgeon accustomed to surroundings replete with every modern appliance and convenience, and the possibility of exercising the most stringent precautions against the introduction of sepsis from without, abdominal operations presented difficulties only faintly appreciated in advance; but this alone scarcely accounted for the want of success attending the active treatment of wounds of the intestine when occasion demanded. Failure was rather to be referred to the severity of the local injury to be dealt with, or to the operations being necessarily undertaken at too late a date. Many fatalities, again, were due to the association of other injuries, a large proportion of the wound tracks involving other organs or parts beyond the boundaries of the abdominal cavity.
The frequent association of wounds of the thoracic cavity with those of the abdomen afforded many of the most striking examples of immunity from serious consequences as a result of wound of the pleura. It must be conceded that in a large number of such injuries only the extreme limits of the pleural sac were encroached upon, yet in some the tracks passed through the lungs, although without serious consequences. Under the heading of injury to the large intestine a somewhat special form of pleural septicæmia will be referred to.
It may at once be stated that such favourable results as occurred in abdominal injuries were practically limited to wounds caused by bullets of small calibre, and that, although in the short chapter dealing with shell injuries a few recoveries from visceral wounds will be mentioned, I never met with a penetrating visceral injury from a Martini-Henry or large sporting bullet which did not prove fatal.
Wounds of the abdominal wall.--It is somewhat paradoxical to say that these injuries possessed special interest from their comparative rarity of occurrence, since they were not of intrinsic importance. Their infrequency depended on the difficulty of striking the body in such a plane as to implicate the belly wall alone, and their interest in the diagnostic difficulty which they gave rise to.
In many cases the position of the openings and the strongly oval or gutter character possessed by them were sufficient proof of the superficial passage of the bullet; in others we had to bear in mind that the position of the patient when struck was rarely that of rest in the supine position, in which the surgical examination was made, and considerable difficulty arose. Some superficial tracks crossing the belly wall have already been referred to in the chapter on wounds in general and in that dealing with injuries to the chest, in which the above characters sufficed to indicate that penetration of the abdominal cavity had not occurred. In other instances a definite subcutaneous gutter could be traced, and often in these a well-marked cord in the abdominal wall corresponding to the track could be felt at a later date. Again, limitation to the abdominal wall was sometimes proved by the position of the retained bullet, or sometimes by the presence in the track of foreign bodies carried in with the projectile. See case 160.
Fig. 84 illustrates an example where the limitation to the abdominal wall was evident on inspection. Here the division of the thick muscles of the abdominal wall had led to the formation of a swelling exactly similar to that seen after the subcutaneous rupture of a muscle, and two soft fluctuating tumours bounded by contracted muscle existed in the substance of the oblique and rectus muscles.
[Illustration: FIG. 84.--Wound of Abdominal Wall (Lee-Metford). Division of fibres of external oblique and rectus abdominis muscles. Case 159]
The cases which presented the most serious diagnostic difficulty in this relation were those in which the wound was situated in the thicker muscular portions of the lower part of the abdominal and pelvic walls. Such a case is illustrated in the chapter on fractures (see fig. 55, p. 191). I saw one or two such instances, in which only the exploration necessary for treatment of the fracture decided the point. In many of the wounds affecting the lateral portion of the abdominal wall the question of penetration could never be definitely cleared up, as wounds of the colon sometimes gave rise to absolutely no symptoms.
In a certain proportion of the injuries the peritoneal cavity was no doubt perforated without the infliction of any further visceral injury, and in these also the doubt as to the occurrence of penetration was never solved.
(158) Wound of belly wall.--Wounded at Modder River. Entry (Mauser), 2 inches below the centre of the left iliac crest; exit, 1-1/2 inch above and internal to the left anterior superior iliac spine. The patient was on horseback at the time of the injury and did not fall; he got down, however, and lay on the field an hour, whence he was removed to hospital. Probably the track pierced the ilium, and remained confined to the abdominal wall. There were no signs of visceral injury.
(159) Cape Boy. Wounded at Modder River. Entry (Lee-Metford), immediately above and outside right anterior superior spine; exit, 1-1/2 inch below and to right of umbilicus. A well-marked swelling corresponded with division of the fibres of the oblique muscles and of the rectus, and on palpation a hollow corresponding with the track was felt. The abdominal muscles were exceptionally well developed (fig. 84).
(160) Wounded at Magersfontein while lying prone. Entry, irregular, oblique, and somewhat contused, over the eighth left rib, in the anterior axillary line; exit, a slit wound immediately above and to the left of the umbilicus. The bullet struck a small circular metal looking-glass before entering, hence the irregularity of the wound. The patient developed a hæmothorax, but no abdominal signs; the former was probably parietal in origin, secondary to the fractured rib, and the whole wound non-penetrating as far as the abdominal cavity was concerned.
(161) Wounded at Magersfontein. Entry (Mauser), 1-1/2 inch external to and 1/2 inch below the left posterior superior iliac spine; exit, 1 inch internal horizontally to the left anterior superior spine.
No signs of intra-peritoneal injury were noted, but free suppuration occurred in left loin; the ilium was tunnelled.
The same patient was wounded by a Jeffrey bullet in the hand; the third metacarpal was pulverised, although the bullet, which was longitudinally flanged, was retained.
(162) Wounded outside Heilbron. Entry, below the eighth right costal cartilage; exit, below the eighth cartilage of the left side. The wound of entry was slightly oval; that of exit continued out as a 'flame'-like groove for 2 inches. A week later the wound track could be palpated as an evident hard continuous cord.
Penetration of the intestinal area without definite evidence of visceral injury.--This accident occurred with a sufficient degree of frequency to obtain the greatest importance, both from the point of view of diagnosis and prognosis, and as affecting the question of operative interference. Amongst the cases reported below a number occurred in which it was impossible to settle the question whether injury to the bowel had occurred or not, and I will here shortly give what explanation I can for the apparent escape of the intestine from serious injury.
We may first recall the general question of the escape of structures lying to one or other side of the track of the bullet. I believe that there can be no doubt as to the accuracy of the remarks already made as to the escape of such structures as the nerves by means of displacement, and that the occurrence of such escapes is manifestly dependent on the degree of fixity of the nerve or the special segment of it implicated. The general tendency of the tissues around the tracks to escape extensive destruction from actual contusion has also been referred to, and is, I think, indisputable.
If these observations be accepted, I think there can be no difficulty in allowing that the small intestine is exceptionally well arranged to escape injury. First of all, it is very moveable; secondly, it is so arranged that in certain directions a bullet may pass almost parallel to the long axis of the coils; thirdly, it is elastic, capable of compression, and light, and hence offers but a small degree of resistance to the passage of the bullet across the abdominal cavity.
Certain evidence both clinical and pathological supports the contention that the small intestine may escape injury from the passing bullet.
First of all, the fact may be broadly stated that injuries to the small intestine were fatal in the great majority of certainly diagnosed cases, while, on the other hand, many tracks crossed the area occupied by the small intestine without serious symptoms of any kind resulting. Secondly, experience showed that when the bullet crossed the line of the fixed portions of the large intestine the gut rarely escaped, and that, although a considerable proportion of these cases recovered spontaneously, in a large number of them immediate symptoms, or secondary complications, clearly substantiated the nature of the original injury. As far as my experience went, however, I never saw any instance in which an undoubted injury of the small intestine was followed by the development of a local peritoneal suppuration and recovery, a sequence by no means uncommon in the case of wounds of the large intestine. Although, therefore, I am not prepared to deny the possibility of spontaneous recovery from an injury to the small intestine, under certain conditions which will be stated later, I believe that in the immense majority of cases in which a bullet crossed the small intestine area without the supervention of serious symptoms, the small intestine escaped perforating injury.
Beyond the clinical evidence offered above, certain pathological observations support the view that the intestine escapes perforation by displacement. Most of my knowledge on this subject was derived from the limited number of abdominal sections I performed on cases of injury to the small intestine, and may be summed up as follows.
The small intestine may present evidence of lateral contusion in the shape of elongated ecchymoses, either parallel, oblique, or transverse to its long axis. These ecchymoses resemble in extent and outline those which ordinarily surround a wound of the intestinal wall produced by a bullet (see fig. 87, p. 418).
The wall of the small intestine may be wounded to an extent short of perforation, either the peritoneal coat alone being split, or the wound implicating the muscular coat and producing an appearance similar to that seen when the intestine is dragged upon during an operation, but without so much gaping of the edges (see fig. 85, p. 416).
I met with these conditions in association with co-existing complete perforations of the small intestine, and in one case of intra-peritoneal hæmorrhage in which no complete perforation was discoverable (No. 169, p. 432).
The implication and perforation of the small intestine are to some extent influenced by the direction of the wound. A striking case is included below, No. 201, in which a bullet passed from the loin to the iliac fossa on each side of the body, approximately parallel to the course of the inner margin of the colon, and I also saw some other wounds in this direction in which no evidence of injury to the small intestine was detected, and which got well. Again wounds from flank to flank were, as a rule, very fatal; but I saw more than one instance where these wounds were situated immediately below the crest of the ilium, in which the intestine escaped injury (see case 171). A very striking observation was made by Mr. Cheatle in such a wound. The patient died as a result of a double perforation of both cæcum and sigmoid flexure; none the less the bullet had crossed the small intestine area without inflicting any injury.
The sum of my experience, in fact, was to encourage the belief that, unless the intestine was struck in such a direction as to render lateral displacement an impossibility, the gut often escaped perforation.
As a rule, the wounds of the abdomen which from their position proved the most dangerous to the intestine were--
1. Wounds passing from one flank to the other were very dangerous, as crossing complicated coils of the small intestine, and two fixed portions of the colon. This danger was most marked when the wounds were situated between the eighth rib in the mid axillary line and the crest of the ilium; above this level the liver, or possibly liver and stomach, were sometimes alone implicated, and the cases did well. Again, when the wounds crossed the false pelvis the patients sometimes escaped all injury to viscera.
2. Antero-posterior wounds in the small intestine area were very fatal if the course was direct; in such the small intestine seldom escaped injury.
3. Wounds with a certain degree of obliquity from anterior wall to flank, or from flank to loin, were on the other hand comparatively favourable, as the small intestine often escaped, and if any gut was wounded, it was often the colon.
4. Vertical wounds implicating the chest and abdomen, or the abdomen and pelvis, were on the whole not very unfavourable. For instance, when the bullet entered by the buttock and emerged below the umbilicus, a number of patients escaped fatal injury; this depended on the comparatively good prognosis in wounds of the rectum and bladder. A good many patients in whom the bullet entered by the upper part of the loin, and escaped 1-1/2 inch within the anterior superior spine of the ilium, also did well. The same holds good when the wounds either entered or emerged under the anterior costal margin of the thorax, either prior to or after traversing the thorax.
Wounds passing directly backward from the iliac regions were in my experience very unfavourable; but I believe mainly as a result of hæmorrhage from the iliac arteries.
The occurrence of wounds of the abdomen of an 'explosive' character.--The vast majority of the abdominal wounds observed in the Stationary or Base hospitals were of the type dimensions. A certain number of the abdominal injuries which proved fatal on the field or shortly afterwards were described as explosive in character, and were referred by the observers to the employment of expanding bullets.
A few words on this subject seem necessary, because it seems doubtful whether such injuries could be produced by any of the forms of expanding bullet of small calibre in use, unless the track crossed one of the bones in the abdominal or pelvic wall. That this was sometimes the case there is no doubt: thus I saw two cases in which the splenic flexure of the colon was wounded, in which the external opening was large, and a comminuted fracture of the ribs of the left side existed. One can well believe that bullets passing through the pelvic bones might 'set up' to a considerable extent, and although I never happened to see such a case, an explanation of some of the wounds described by others might be found in this occurrence.
In instances in which the soft parts alone were perforated, I am disinclined to believe that bullets of small calibre, either regulation or soft-nosed, were responsible for the injuries. I had the opportunity of examining two Mauser bullets of the Jeffreys variety which crossed the abdomen and caused death. In the first (figured on page 94, fig. 40) very little alteration beyond slight shortening had occurred. In the second the deformity was almost the same, except that the side of the bullet was indented, probably from impact with some object prior to its entry into the body. In each case the bullet was of course travelling at a low rate of velocity; hence no very strong inference can be drawn from either. In the case of the second specimen, which was removed by Mr. Cheatle, a remarkable observation was made, which tends to throw some light on one possible mode of production of large exit apertures. This bullet crossed the cæcum, making two small type openings; but later, when it crossed the sigmoid flexure, it tore two large irregular openings in the gut. This might be explained on the ground that the velocity was so small as only just to allow of perforation, which therefore took the nature of a tear. I am inclined to suggest, as a more likely explanation, that the spent bullet turned head over heels in its course across the abdomen, and made lateral or irregular impact with the last piece of bowel it touched. A slightly greater degree of force would have allowed a similar large and irregular opening to be made in the abdominal wall also.
In this relation the question will naturally be raised as to how far the explosive appearances may have been due to high velocity alone on the part of the bullet. I am disinclined from my general experience to believe that explosive injuries of the soft parts were to be thus explained. On the other hand, I believe that the possession of a low degree of velocity very greatly increased the danger in abdominal wounds. I believe that the bowel was, under these circumstances, less likely to escape by displacement, and was more widely torn when wounded; again, that inexact impact led to increase of size in the external apertures, and the bullet was of course more often retained.
Mr. Watson Cheyne published a very remarkable instance of one of the dangers of an injury from a spent bullet, in which, in spite of non-penetration of the abdominal cavity, the small intestine was ruptured in two places.
I believe the majority of the wounds designated as explosive were the result of the passage of large leaden bullets, either of the Martini-Henry or Express type. The small opportunity of observing such injuries in the hospitals of course depended on the fact that the majority were rapidly fatal.
Nature of the anatomical lesion in wounds of the intestine.--The openings in the parietal peritoneum tended to assume the slit or star forms, probably on account of the elasticity of the membrane. A diagram of one of these forms is appended to fig. 89. In this instance the opening in the peritoneum was made from the abdominal aspect, prior to the escape of the bullet from the cavity, and on the impact of the tip, the long axis of the bullet was oblique to the surface of the abdominal wall.
In the intestinal wall the openings varied in character according to the mode of impact.
In some cases the gut was merely contused by lateral contact of the passing bullet. The result of this was evidenced later by the presence of localised oval patches of ecchymosis. These were identical in appearance with the patches shown surrounding the wounds in fig. 87.
[Illustration: FIG. 85.--Lateral Slit in Small Intestine produced by passage of bullet. Slit somewhat obscured by deposition of inflammatory lymph. (St. Thomas's Hospital Museum)]
More forcible lateral impact produced a split of the peritoneum, or of this together with the muscular coat. Such a lateral slit is shown in fig. 85, although the clearness of outline is somewhat impaired by the presence of a considerable amount of inflammatory lymph.
Fig. 86 exhibits a lateral injury of a more pronounced form. The bullet here struck the most prominent portion of the under surface of the bowel, and produced a circular perforation not very unlike one produced by rectangular impact, except in the lesser degree of eversion of the mucous membrane. Here again the appearance is somewhat altered by the presence of a considerable amount of lymph, but this is of less importance in this figure because the lymph is localised to the portion of the bowel in the immediate neighbourhood of the opening which had suffered contusion and erasion.
[Illustration: FIG. 86.--Gutter Wound of Small Intestine caused by lateral impact. Position of shallow portion of gutter indicated by deposition of inflammatory lymph. Circular perforation. (St. Thomas's Hospital Museum)]
Fig. 87, A B, illustrates a symmetrical perforation of the small intestine; the aperture of entry (A) is roughly circular, and a ring of mucous membrane protrudes and partially closes the opening. The aperture of exit is a curved slit, again partially occluded by the mucous membrane. The same amount of difference between the two apertures did not always exist; in many cases both were circular, and apparently symmetrical. Beyond this I have seen three apertures in close proximity, two lying on the same aspect of the bowel, and the first of these was no doubt an opening due to lateral impact similar to that seen in fig. 86. In the recent condition little difference existed between the three apertures.
The localised ecchymosis surrounding the apertures is quite characteristic of this form of injury, and is a valuable aid to finding the openings during an operation.
Fig. 88 shows the interior of the same segment of bowel, as fig. 87. It shows the localised ecchymosis as seen from the inner surface, here rather more extensive from the fact that the blood spreads more readily in the submucous tissue.
[Illustration: FIG. 87.--Perforating Wounds of Small Intestine. A. Entry; note circular outline and eversion of mucous membrane. B. Wound of exit; curved slit-like character, eversion of mucous membrane. Note the localised ecchymosis, more abundant round exit aperture. (St. Thomas's Hospital Museum)]
It will be noted that the main feature of the form of injury is the regular outline and the small size of the wounds. Another feature not illustrated by the figures should also be mentioned. In the ruptures of intestine with which we are acquainted in civil practice the wound in the gut is almost without exception situated at the free border of the bowel, but in these injuries it was just as frequently at the mesenteric margin. The importance of this factor is considerable, since wounds near the mesenteric edge are much more likely to be accompanied by hæmorrhage, and thus the opportunity for diffusion of infection is considerably multiplied, to say nothing of the danger from loss of blood.
Beyond these more or less pure perforations, long slits or gutters were occasionally cut. I saw instances of these in the case of the ascending colon, and in the small curvature of the stomach. The comparative fixity of the portion of bowel struck is a matter of great importance in the production of this form of injury.
[Illustration: FIG. 88.--The same piece of Intestine as that shown in fig. 87, laid open to show the ecchymosis on the inner aspect of the Bowel. The two indicating lines lead to the openings, which appear slit-like, and are sunk at the bottom of folds. (St. Thomas's Hospital Museum)]
It may be well to add that, although the figures inserted are all taken from small-intestine wounds, the nature of the wounds of the peritoneum-clad part of the large intestine in no way differed from them, except in so far as fixity of the bowel exposed it to a more extensive wound when the bullet took a parallel course to its long axis.
A more important point in the injuries to the large intestine was the possibility of an extra-peritoneal wound. I saw several such lesions of the colon, every one of which ended fatally. I became still more fully convinced of the greater seriousness of extra- to intra-peritoneal rupture of this portion of the gut than I was when I expressed a similar opinion in a former paper. It will be seen later that the results of intra- and extra-peritoneal wounds of the bladder fully confirm this view, as all extra-peritoneal injuries died, while many intra-peritoneal perforations recovered spontaneously.
Wounds of the mesentery.--I had little experience of this injury; in fact, case 169, on which I operated, was my sole observation. It stands to reason, however, that injuries to the mesentery would be much more frequent proportionately to wounds of the gut than is the case in the ruptures seen in civil practice, since the whole area of the mesentery is equally open to injury. Viewing the extreme danger of hæmorrhage into the peritoneal cavity in these injuries, I should be inclined to expect that a considerable proportion of those deaths from abdominal wounds which took place on the field of battle were due to this source.
Wounds of the omentum.--Here, again, I am unable to express any opinion, although the supposition that hæmorrhage from this source took place is natural.
Prolapse of omentum was comparatively rare, except in cases with large wounds; it was apparently seen with some frequency among patients who died rapidly on the field of battle. I only saw it twice, and on each occasion in shell wounds. The wounds from small-calibre bullets were as a rule too small to allow of external prolapse.
Fig. 89, however, illustrates a very interesting observation. A patient in the German Ambulance in Heilbron, under Dr. Flockemann, died as a result of suppuration and hæmorrhage secondary to an injury to the colon. At the autopsy a portion of the omentum was found adherent in the wound of exit, but it had not reached the external surface. The chief interest of the observation lies in the light it throws on the mechanism of these injuries. It is impossible to conceive that a small-calibre bullet coming into direct contact with the omentum could do anything but perforate it. It, therefore, appears clear that in a displacement like that figured, only lateral impact occurred with the omentum, which was carried along by the spin and rush of the bullet into the canal of exit, where it lodged.
[Illustration: FIG. 89.--Great Omentum carried by the bullet into an exit track leading from the abdominal cavity. A. Outline of opening in the peritoneum]
Results of injury to the intestine. 1. Escape of contents and infection of the peritoneal cavity.--I think there is little special to be said on this subject. The escape of contents into the peritoneal cavity was by no means free, unless the injury was multiple. Thus in one case of injury to the small intestine, No. 166, on which I operated, there was absolutely no gross escape until the bowel was removed from the abdominal cavity, when the contents spurted out freely. In one case of very oblique injury to the colon there was a considerable quantity of fæcal matter in a localised space, but as a rule the ordinary condition best described as 'peritoneal infection' from the wound was found. The bad effect of anything like free escape was well shown in multiple perforations; in these suppurative peritonitis rapidly developed and the patients died at the end of thirty-six hours or less. A typical case is quoted in No. 168.
2. Peritoneal infection, and general septicæmia.--As is evident from the results quoted among the cases, the degree which this reached varied greatly. It may of course be assumed that in some measure it occurred in every case in which the bowel was perforated, but it was sometimes so slight as to be scarcely noticeable. This may be said to have been most common in injuries to the large intestine. Wounds of the cæcum, ascending and descending colon, the sigmoid flexure, or the rectum, were sometimes followed by no serious symptoms, either local or general. Again in these portions of the bowel the development of local signs, and the later formation of an abscess, were by no means uncommon.
In the case of the small intestine I never observed this sequence, and the same may be said of the transverse colon, which in its anatomical arrangement and position so nearly approximates to the small bowel. In suspected wounds of these portions of the bowel either the symptoms were so slight as to render it doubtful whether a perforation had occurred, or marked signs of general peritoneal septicæmia developed, and death resulted.
The condition of the peritoneum in fatal cases varied much. In some a dry peritonitis, or one in which a considerable quantity of slightly turbid fluid was effused, was found. In others a rapid suppurative process, accompanied by the effusion of large quantities of plastic lymph, was met with. My experience suggested that the latter condition was the result of free infection from multiple wounds of the gut, the former the accompaniment of single wounds. Hence I should ascribe the difference mainly to the extent of the primary infection.
This is perhaps a suitable place to further discuss the explanation of the escape of a considerable number of the patients who received wounds of the abdomen, possibly implicating the bowel. Although this was not, I think, so common an occurrence as has been sometimes assumed, yet many examples were met with. Several reasons have been advanced.
(1) Great importance has been given to the fact that many of the men were wounded while in a state of hunger, no food having been taken for twelve or more hours before the reception of the injury. In view of the well-proved fact in these, as in other intestinal injuries, that free intestinal escape does not occur, and that it is usually a mere question of infection, this explanation, in my opinion, is of small importance. It might with far more justice be pointed out that many of these wounded men were for them in the happy position of not having friends freely dosing them with brandy and water after the reception of the injury, and this was possibly an element of some importance.
Some of the men did, however, drink freely, and in one case which terminated fatally a comrade gave a man wounded through the belly an immediate dose of Beecham's pills.
(2) Mr. Treves has suggested that the effect of the severe trauma on the muscular coat of the bowel is to cause a cessation of peristaltic movement. This, as in the case of 'local shock' elsewhere, may no doubt be of importance, and to it should be added the simultaneous cessation of abdominal respiratory movements in the segment of the belly wall covering the injured part. The occurrence of general cessation of peristaltic movement is, however, to some extent opposed by the fact that in a certain number of the cases early passage of motions was seen just as happens in the intestinal ruptures seen in civil practice.
I should be inclined to ascribe the escape from serious infection in these injuries to the same cause which accounts for their comparative insignificance in other regions--namely, the small calibre of the bullet and consequent small size of the lesion: in point of fact to the minimal nature of the primary infection. I very much doubt if any patient who had more than one complete perforation of the small intestine got well during the whole campaign. This opinion is, moreover, supported by the fact that the prognosis was so far better in cases of injury to the large than to the small intestine, in which former segment of the bowel we have the advantages of a position beyond the region in which intestinal movement is most free, the unlikelihood of multiple injury, and a drier and more solid type of fæcal contents.
In the instances in which recovery followed perforating injuries without any bad signs we can only assume a minimal infection, and sufficient irritation and reaction on the part of the bowel to produce rapid adhesion between contiguous coils, and thus provisional closure.
The other mode of spontaneous recovery which I saw several times take place in the injuries to the large bowel consisted in the limitation of the spread of infection by early adhesions and the development of a local abscess. The non-observance of this process in any case of injury to the small intestine raises very great doubts in my mind as to the frequent recovery of patients in whom the small intestine was perforated.
INJURIES TO THE INTESTINAL TRACT
1. Wounds of the stomach.--A considerable number of wounds in such a situation as to have possibly implicated the stomach were observed, and of these a certain number recovered spontaneously. The only two instances that came under my own observation are recorded below. It will be noted that in each the special symptoms were the classic ones of vomiting and hæmatemesis. In the first case blood was also passed per anum, and in the second the diagnosis was reinforced by the escape of stomach contents from the external wound.
The second case was a surgical disappointment. No doubt the fatal issue was mainly dependent on the fact that the external wound had to be kept open to allow of the escape of the abundant discharge from the wounded liver. In the absence of the hepatic wound, however, I believe it would have been possible for this patient to have got well spontaneously, in view of the firm adhesions which had formed around the opening in the stomach, and the consequent localisation which had been effected. Another unfortunate element in this case was the comminuted fracture of the seventh costal cartilage, which maintained the patency of the aperture of exit. The latter point, however, was of doubtful importance from this aspect, as the vent provided for the gastric and biliary secretions may have been the safety-valve that had allowed localisation to develop.
I believe that the secondary hæmorrhage was the main element in robbing us of a success in this case, and that this depended on the digestion of the wound by the gastric secretion. The early troubles which arose in the treatment of this patient well illustrate the difficulties by which the military surgeon is at times met; but the patient was admirably attended to and nursed by my friend Mr. Pershouse, and an orderly who was specially put on duty for the purpose.
(163) Wounded at Rensburg. Entry (Mauser), in ninth left intercostal space in posterior axillary line; exit, a transverse slit 1/2 an inch in length to left of xiphoid appendage. Patient was retiring when struck; he did not fall, but ran for about 1,000 yards, whence he was conveyed to hospital. He vomited half an hour after the injury (last meal bread and 'bully beef,' taken two hours previously), and during the evening three times again, the vomit consisting mainly 'of dark thick blood.' He was put on milk diet, and not completely starved; on the third day a large quantity of dark clotted blood was passed per rectum with the stool, and this continued for two days.
Ten days after the injury the temperature was still rising to 100°, and did not become normal till the fourteenth day. The pulse averaged 80. The abdomen, meanwhile, moved fairly well, respirations 18 to 20. Some tenderness was present in the epigastrium and towards the spleen. Resonance throughout. Ordinary diet was now resumed, and beyond slight epigastric pain on deep inspiration, no further symptoms were observed, and the patient left for England at the end of the month. The spleen may have been traversed in this patient, as well as the lower margin of the right lung.
(164*) Wounded at Enslin. Entry (Mauser), 3/4 of an inch from the spine, opposite the eighth intercostal space; exit, through the seventh left costal cartilage, 1 inch from the median line. The patient was lying in the prone position when shot: he vomited blood freely, and the bowels acted three times before he was seen forty hours after the accident, each motion containing dark blood.
On the commencement of the third day the patient's expression was extremely anxious, and he was suffering great pain. Pulse 96, temperature 100°. Tongue moist, occasional vomiting, bowels open yesterday. Has taken fluid nourishment since injury. The abdomen moved with respiration, but was moderately distended, especially in the line of the transverse colon; it was tympanitic on percussion, there was no dulness in the flanks, and only moderate rigidity of the wall on palpation. Frothy fluid stained with bile and fæcal in odour was escaping from the wound of exit, and the everted margins of the latter were bile-stained.
A vertical incision was carried downwards from the wound for 4 inches. A rugged furrow was found on the under surface of the left lobe of the liver; the stomach was contracted and firmly adherent by recent lymph to the under surface of the liver and the diaphragm. The transverse colon was much distended. On separating the stomach a slit wound was found at the lesser curvature, immediately to the right of the oesophagus. This wound was closed with some difficulty with two tiers of sutures; the cavity was mopped out, and then irrigated with boiled water; a plug was introduced along the line of the furrow in the liver, and the lower part of the abdominal incision closed.
The patient stood the operation well, and was removed to his tent; during the day, however, two thunder showers occurred during each of which water, several inches if not a foot deep, rushed through the camp. After the second flood he was removed to the operating room, the only house we had, and slept there. The pulse rose to 120, and respiration to 26, and there was pain, which was subdued by 1/3 grain of morphia, administered subcutaneously. A fair amount of urine was passed, and the bowels acted once, the motion containing blood.
On the second day after operation there was some improvement; the pulse still numbered 116, and the temperature was raised to 100°, but the belly moved fairly, and pain was moderate. Abundant foul-smelling, bile-stained discharge came from the wound when the plug was removed. Rectal feeding was supplemented by small quantities of milk and soda by the mouth.
The condition did not materially change, but on the fourth day it was evident that the suturing of the stomach wound had given way, and liquid food escaped readily when taken. The discharge remained bile-stained and very foul. No extension of inflammation to the general peritoneal cavity occurred, but it was evident that the patient was suffering from constitutional infection from the foul wound, the lower part of which opened up somewhat after the removal of the stitches on the seventh day. The wound was irrigated three times daily with 1-300 creolin lotion, but remained very foul. The man slowly lost strength, although escape from the stomach considerably decreased. On the tenth day a sudden severe hæmorrhage occurred, presumably from a large branch of the coeliac axis. The bleeding was readily controlled by a plug, and did not recur; but the patient rapidly sank, and died on the twelfth day after the operation, and fourteen days after reception of the injury. No post-mortem examination was made.
2. Wounds of the small intestine.--These were comparatively common, but offered little that was special either in their symptoms or the results attending them. Wounds were met with in every part of the small gut; but I saw no case in which an injury to the duodenum could be specially diagnosed.
As to the symptoms which attended these injuries, it is somewhat difficult to speak with precision, and it must be left to my readers to form an opinion as to how many of the cases recounted below were really instances of perforating wounds. My own view is that in the majority of the cases that got well spontaneously, the injury was not of a perforating nature, and that for reasons which have been already set forth. It will, however, be at once noted that in all the five cases in which the injury was certainly diagnosed in hospital death occurred.
The cases of injury to the small intestine are perhaps best arranged in three classes.
1. Those who died upon the field, or shortly after removal from it. In these the external wounds were often large, the omentum was not rarely prolapsed, and escape of fæces sometimes occurred early. Shock from the severity of the lesion, and hæmorrhage, were no doubt important factors in the early lethal issue in this class. Many of the injuries were no doubt produced by bullets striking irregularly, by ricochets, by bullets of the expanding forms, or by bullets of large calibre. As being beyond the bounds of surgical aid, this class possessed the least interest.
2. Cases brought into the Field, or even the Stationary hospitals, with symptoms of moderate severity, or even of an insignificant character, in which evidence of septic peritonitis suddenly developed and death ensued.
3. Cases in which the position of the wounds raised the possibility of injury to the intestine, but in which the symptoms were slight or of moderate severity, and which recovered spontaneously.
The whole crux in diagnosis lay in the attempt to separate the two latter classes, and, personally, I must own to having been no nearer a position of being able to form an opinion on this point, in the late than in the early stage of my stay in South Africa. The advent of peritoneal septicæmia was in many instances the only determining moment. On this matter I can only add that, in civil practice, an exploratory abdominal section is often the only means of determination of a rupture of the bowel wall.
With regard to the cases of suspected injury to the bowel which recovered spontaneously, the symptoms were somewhat special in their comparative slightness, and in the limited nature of the local signs. Thus the pulse seldom rose to as much as 100 in rate, 80 was a common average. Respiration was never greatly quickened, 24 was a common rate. The temperature rarely exceeded 100°. Vomiting was occasionally severe, but usually not persistent, ceasing on the second day. A good quantity of urine was passed. As to the local signs, these again were of a limited nature; distension did not occur, or was slight; movement of the abdominal wall was only restricted in the neighbourhood of the wound, the affected area amounted to a quarter, or at most half, the abdominal wall, and rigidity was localised to a similar segment. Local tenderness usually existed; but, as a rule, there was little or no dulness to point to the occurrence either of fluid effusion or a considerable deposition of lymph.
Again many of the patients suffered with very slight symptoms of constitutional shock, although there was considerable variation in this particular.
(165*) Wounded at Graspan, sustaining a compound fracture of the fibula. While being carried off the field, a second bullet (Lee-Metford) entered immediately outside the left posterior superior iliac spine, perforated the pelvis, and emerged 1-1/2 inch within the left anterior superior spine. The patient was then put down and left on the field ten hours; later he was carried to shelter for the night, and arrived at Orange River on the second day. He suffered with some pain in the abdomen, especially during the journey in the train, but was not sick; the bowels were confined.
When seen on the third day at 6 P.M., some pain was complained of in the abdomen, which moved freely in the upper part, but was motionless below the umbilicus. No distension. Tenderness around wound of exit and some rigidity. The bowels had acted four times during the day; motions loose, dark brown, and containing no blood. Face not anxious, eyes bright, temperature 102°. Pulse 96, regular, and of good strength. Tongue moist and little furred.
The abdomen was opened at 5 A.M. on the fourth day, as the local signs had become more pronounced, and the patient had passed a restless night in great abdominal pain. A local incision was chosen, as the wound was presumably in the sigmoid flexure. The sigmoid flexure was adherent to the abdominal wall opposite the wound of exit, and a dark ecchymosed patch was found, but no perforation could be detected. Foul pus and gas escaped freely from the pelvis, but no wound of the large bowel could be discovered here. On enlarging the incision upwards three openings were found in a coil of jejunum, probably that about five feet from the duodenal junction usually provided with the longest mesentery. No fourth opening could be found. The openings were circular, about 1/3 inch in diameter, clean cut, with a ring of everted mucous membrane, and the wall of the bowel in the neighbourhood was thickened. All three openings were included within a length of 2-1/2 inches. There was no surrounding ecchymosis of the bowel wall. Very little escaped intestinal contents were found in the situation of the bowel. The latter had apparently been retracted upwards, and lay to the left of the lumbar spine. The wounds were readily closed by five Lembert's sutures, three crossing the openings, and one at each end. The belly was then washed out with boiled water and closed. The delay in finding the wounds due to the mistaken impression that they would be found in the pelvis materially prolonged the operation, which lasted an hour and a half. The patient never rallied, and died seventeen hours later. It is possible that a wound in the sigmoid flexure was present which had already closed at the time of operation.
(166*) Wounded at Magersfontein. Entry (Mauser), opposite central point of left ilium; exit, 1-1/2 inch above the centre of the right Poupart's ligament. Vomiting commenced soon after the injury, and this was continuous until the patient's arrival in the Stationary hospital on the fourth day, when the condition was as follows:--
Face extremely anxious in expression. Temperature 101°, sweating freely. Pulse 110, fair strength. Tongue moist. Abdomen much distended, rigid, motionless, tympanitic throughout. Bowels confined. No urine had been passed for twenty-four hours, [Symbol: ounce]ij in bladder on catheterisation, clear, and containing no blood.
Abdominal section. Median incision. A considerable quantity of bloody effusion was evacuated. Intestine generally congested and distended. No lymph. Two wounds were found in the ileum on the opposite sides of one coil; the openings were circular, with the mucous membrane everted. No escape of fæcal matter was visible until the intestine was delivered, when intestinal contents spurted freely across the room. The openings were sutured with five Lembert's stitches. The bowel was punctured in two places to relieve distension, and then returned into the belly, after washing with boiled water.
Four pints of saline solution were infused into the median basilic vein, and 1/30 grain strychnine sulph. was injected hypodermically.
The patient did not rally, and died twelve hours after the operation.
(167*) Wounded at Graspan. Entry (Lee-Metford), midway between the umbilicus and pubes; exit, 1 inch to the left of the fifth lumbar spine. The patient was seen on the third day in the following condition: in great pain, expression extremely anxious, vomiting constantly. Pulse 150 running, respirations 48. Temperature 100°, sweating freely. Great distension, rigidity, and general tenderness of immobile abdomen. No improvement followed the administration of brandy and hypodermic injection of strychnine 1/30 grain, and operation was deemed hopeless.
In the evening the patient was apparently dying. Face blue and sunken and covered with sweat, eyes dull, speechless, pulse imperceptible, restlessness extreme, bowels acting involuntarily, no urine in bladder.
The man was placed in a tent by himself, and to my surprise was alive and better the next morning; the expression was still anxious, but the face brighter and not sweating; the pulse only numbered 100, but was very weak, and the hands and feet were cold. The condition of the abdomen was unaltered, but the thoracic respiration had decreased in rapidity from 48 to 28.
His condition still seemed to preclude any chance of successful intervention, but none the less life was retained until the morning of the seventh day, the state alternating between a moribund one and one of slight improvement. He was lucid at times, although for the most part wandering, and was so restless that no covering could be kept upon him. Vomiting was continuous, so that no nourishment could be retained; the bowels acted frequently involuntarily, and little or no urine was passed. Meanwhile, the abdomen became flat, then sunken, an area of induration and tenderness about 6 inches in diameter developing around the wound of entry. Slight variations in the pulse, and from normal to subnormal in the temperature, were noted, and death eventually occurred from septicæmia and inanition.
(168*) Wounded at Driefontein. Entry (Mauser), above the posterior third of the left iliac crest, at the margin of the last lumbar transverse process (probably through ilio-lumbar ligament); exit, 1 inch below and to the left of the umbilicus.
The patient was wounded at 3 P.M., but not brought into the Field hospital until 9 P.M., when the temperature of the tents was below 28°F. He was considerably collapsed, suffering much pain, and vomited freely. The abdomen was flat, but very tender. Bowels confined. The column had to move at 5 A.M. the next morning, when the temperature was still near freezing, and during the day continuous fighting prevented any chance of operation. The man steadily sank during the day, and died thirty-six hours after the reception of the injury.
Post-mortem condition.--Belly not distended, dull anteriorly in patches, and right flank dull throughout. When the belly was opened, extensive adhesion of omentum and intestine enclosing numerous collections of pus were disclosed, and on disturbing the adhesions a large collection of turbid blood-stained fluid was set free from the right loin. The great omentum was much thickened and matted, with deposition of thick patches of lymph; very firm recent adhesions also united numerous coils of small intestine. The pus was foetid, but no appreciable quantity of intestinal contents was detected in it. The lower half or more of the small intestine was injected, reddened, and thickened. The wounds which were situated in the lower part of the jejunum and ileum were multiple, and seven perforations were detected; besides these the intestine was marked by bruises, and some gutter slits affecting the serous and muscular coats only. Considerable ecchymosis surrounded these latter. The clean perforations were circular, less than 1/4 inch in diameter, and for the most part closed by eversion of the mucous membrane. Intestinal contents were not apparent, but escaped freely on manipulation of the bowel.
(169*) Wounded at Magersfontein. Entry (Mauser), over the eighth rib in the anterior axillary line; exit, 1 inch to the left of second lumbar spinous process, just below the last rib. Vomiting commenced almost immediately after reception of the injury, and the bowels acted frequently. This condition persisted until the fourth day, when the patient was brought down to Orange River, and the signs were as follows. Considerable pain in left half of abdomen, pulse 110, fair strength, temperature 101°. Some general distension of abdomen with complete disappearance of hepatic dulness. Some movement of right half of abdomen, left half immobile, dulness extending from the flank as far forwards as linea semilunaris. An incision was made in left linea semilunaris, and Oj blood evacuated from the left loin. There was no lymph on the intestines nor sign of inflammation. No perforation was discovered in either stomach or intestine, but on two coils of jejunum there were deep slits 3/4 inch long, extending through both peritoneal and muscular coats. Beyond these wounds, on other coils oval patches of ecchymosis, due to direct bruising, were present. The peritoneal cavity was sponged free of all blood and irrigated with boiled water; no bleeding point was discovered, and the abdomen was closed.
The next morning the patient was comfortable; temperature 100.2°, pulse 100. Tongue clean and moist; he vomited once during the night.
Some bloody discharge had collected in the dressing, and at the lower angle of wound there was a local swelling, apparently in the abdominal wall. The flank was resonant.
During the afternoon the patient became faint, and when seen at 6 P.M. was in a state of collapse, in which he shortly died.
Death was apparently due to renewal of the previous hæmorrhage. No post-mortem examination was made.
(170*) Wounded at Magersfontein. Entry (Mauser), 1/2 inch to the left of the second sacral spine; exit, immediately below the left anterior superior iliac spine; the patient was kneeling at the time, and the same bullet traversed his left thigh in the lower third. When seen on the third day, the lower part of the abdomen was motionless, tumid, and tender. The bowels had been confined for three days; there had been no sickness, and the tongue was moist and clean. Temperature 100°, pulse 90, fair strength, respirations 38. The patient had once had an attack of acute appendicitis, and he himself said he was sure he now had 'peritonitis,' as he had pain exactly similar in the belly to that he had suffered in his previous illness.
No further signs, however, developed under an expectant treatment, and he remained some two months in hospital, while the wound in the thigh and a third injury to the elbow-joint were healing.
(171) Entry (Mauser), at the highest point of the left crista ilii; exit, through the right ilium, 2 inches horizontally anterior to the posterior superior spine. Absolutely no abdominal symptoms followed. The bowels were confined five days, and then opened by enema. The patient complained of some stiffness in the lumbo-sacral region, but the right synchondrosis was no doubt implicated in the track.
(172) Wounded at Paardeberg (range 800 yards). Entry (Mauser), 2 inches diagonally below and to the right of the umbilicus; exit, not discoverable. For the first two days the patient had to lie out with the regiment; on the fourth he was removed to the Field hospital. During the first three days the patient vomited (green matter) frequently, and the belly was hard and painful; as biscuit was the only available food, no nourishment was taken. The bowels acted on the second night. At the end of a week the patient was sent by bullock wagon (three days and nights) to Modder River, and then down to Capetown, where he walked into the hospital on the thirteenth day, apparently well.
Two days later the temperature rose to 104°, and enteric fever was diagnosed, no local signs pointing to the injury existing. The patient made a good recovery.
(173) Wounded at Colenso. Entry (Mauser), at junction of outer 2/5 with inner 3/5 of line from right anterior superior iliac spine to umbilicus; exit, at upper part of right great sacro-sciatic foramen, in line of posterior superior iliac spine. Advancing on foot when struck; he then fell and crept fifty yards to behind a rock, where he remained seven and a half hours. For two days subsequently he vomited freely; the bowels acted nine hours after the injury, and then became constipated. No further symptoms were noted, and at the end of three weeks the abdomen was absolutely normal. The man is now again on active service.
(174*) Wounded at Modder River while retiring on foot. Entry (Mauser), at highest point of right iliac crest; exit, 2-1/2 inches to right of and 1/2 inch above level of umbilicus. The injury was not followed by sickness, and the bowels remained confined. During the first two days 'pain struck across the abdomen' when micturition was performed.
When the patient came under observation on the third day the condition was as follows:--Complains of little pain, temperature normal, pulse 72, respirations 24, tongue moist, bowels confined. Rigidity of abdominal wall and deficient mobility of nearly whole right half of belly, the whole lower half of which moves little with respiration. No track palpable in abdominal parietes. No dulness, no distension. The temperature rose to 99.5° at night. On the fourth day the bowels acted freely, the pulse fell to 60, the respirations were 24, and the temperature normal.
Tenderness and rigidity persisted in the right flank to the end of a week, after which time no further signs persisted.
(175*) Wounded at Modder River while lying on right side. Range 500 yards. Walked 400 yards after injury. Entry (Mauser), at the junction of the posterior and middle thirds of the right iliac crest; exit, 3 inches to right of and 1/2 inch below the level of the umbilicus. The injury was followed by no signs of intra-abdominal lesion; on the third day the temperature was normal, pulse 80, and the tongue clean and moist. Some soreness at times and tenderness on pressure were complained of, but the man was discharged well at the end of one month.
(176*) Wounded while doubling in retirement at Modder River. Entry (Mauser), immediately above the junction of the posterior and middle thirds of the left iliac crest; exit, 1 inch below costal margin (eighth rib), 3 inches to the right of the median line. The bullet was lying in the anterior wound, whence it was removed by the orderly who applied the first dressing on the field. The patient remained on the field seven and a half hours, and when brought into hospital at once commenced to vomit. The ejected matter, at first green in colour, during the next forty-eight hours changed to a dirty brown. Meanwhile, the abdomen was somewhat painful. When seen on the third day he had ceased to vomit for three hours. The face was slightly anxious, and the patient lay on the ground with the lower extremities extended. Temperature 99°, pulse 72, fair strength. Respirations 32, shallow. Tongue moist, lightly furred, bowels not open for four days. He slept fairly last night. Abdomen soft, moving well with respiration, no distension, slight tenderness below and to the right of the umbilicus, and local dulness in right flank.
The next day the pulse fell to 60 and the bowels acted, but there was no change in the local condition. The man looked somewhat ill until the end of a week, but was then sent to the Base, and at the expiration of a month was sent home well.
(177*) Wounded at Modder River. Two apertures of entry (Mauser); (a) below cartilage of eighth rib in left nipple line; (b) 2 inches below and 4-1/2 inches to the left of the median line. No exit wound discovered, and no track could be palpated between the two openings, which were both circular and depressed. When seen on fourth day there was tenderness in the lower half of the abdomen, and the left thigh was held in a flexed position. Respirations 20, respiratory movement confined to upper half of abdominal wall. Pulse 70, temperature 99°. Tongue moist, covered with white fur; bowels confined since the accident; no sickness. The patient remained under observation thirteen days, during which time pain and difficulty in movement of the left thigh persisted, also slight tenderness in the lower part of the abdomen; but at the end of a month he was sent to England well, but unfit to take further part in the campaign. I thought the bullet might be in the left psoas, but it was not localised.
(178*) Wounded at Modder River. Entry (Mauser), 3-1/2 inches above and 1-1/2 inch within the left anterior superior iliac spine; exit, 1-1/2 inch to the right of the tenth dorsal spinous process. The same bullet had perforated the forearm just above the wrist prior to entering the abdomen. No local or constitutional signs indicated either bowel injury or perforation of liver. The man, however, was suffering from a slight attack of dysentery, passing blood and mucus per rectum with great tenesmus. He was sent to the Base at the end of a week, and returned to England well three weeks later. He attributed his dysentery to the wound, as the symptoms did not exist prior to its reception; but as the disease coincided exactly with what was very prevalent amongst the troops at the time, I do not think there was any connection between it and the injury.
(179) Wounded near Thaba-nchu. Entry, over the centre of the sacrum at the upper border of fourth segment; exit, 1-1/2 inch above left Poupart's ligament, 2 inches from the median line. Aperture of entry oval, with long vertical axis. Exit wound a transverse slit, with slight tendency to starring (see fig. 19, p. 58). One hour after being shot the patient vomited once. There was some evidence of shock and considerable pain. The bowels acted involuntarily simultaneously with the vomiting, and incontinence of fæces and retention of urine persisted for four days. The vomit was bilious in appearance; no blood was seen either in it or the motions.
Forty-six hours after the injury the condition was as follows: Face slightly anxious and pale; skin moist, temperature 100.4°; pulse 116, regular and of fair strength; respirations 24; abdomen slightly tumid; tenderness over lower half, especially on left side; the lower half moves little with respiration.
Twenty-four hours later the patient had improved. He was comfortable and hopeful; slept well with morphia 1/3 grain hypodermically. Tongue moist, covered with white fur; has been taking milk only, [Symbol: ounce]ij every half-hour. No sickness. Temperature
99°. Pulse 104. Respirations 24. Abdomen flatter; general respiratory movement; tenderness now mainly localised to an area 2-1/2 inches in diameter, to the left of the umbilicus, above exit wound.
The patient continued to improve, and on the fifth day travelled six hours in a bullock wagon to Bloemfontein. Soon after arrival his temperature was normal: pulse 80, respirations 16, with good abdominal movement. Local tenderness persisted in the same area, but was less in degree. Tongue rather dry, bowels confined. Micturition normal. Two drachms of castor oil and an enema were given.
On the ninth day patient was practically well, except for slight deep tenderness. He remained in bed on ordinary light diet, but at the end of the third week he was seized by a sudden attack of pain, the temperature rising to 103° and the pulse to 140, the abdomen becoming swollen and tender. He was then under the charge of Mr. Bowlby, who ordered some opium, and the symptoms rapidly subsided. Although this wound crossed the small intestine area, it is probable that the symptoms may have been due to an injury of the rectum or sigmoid flexure.
3. Wounds of the large intestine.--Injuries to every part of the large bowel were observed, and spontaneous recoveries were seen in all parts except the transverse colon, which, as already remarked, is near akin to the small intestine with regard to its position and anatomical arrangement.
The only case of perforation of the vermiform appendix that I heard of, one under the care of Mr. Stonham, died of peritoneal septicæmia. Several cases of recovery from wounds of the cæcum and ascending colon are recounted below. The only points of importance in the nature of the signs of these injuries were their primary insignificance, and the comparative frequency with which local peritoneal suppuration followed them. The absence of a similar sequence in some of the cases in which wounds of the small intestine were assumed, was, in my opinion, one of the strongest reasons for doubting the correctness of the diagnosis. It is also a significant fact that injuries of the ascending colon--that is to say, of the portion of the large bowel which perhaps lies most free from the area occupied by the small intestine--were those which most frequently recovered.
The following cases afford examples of the course followed in a number of injuries to the large intestine, and illustrate both the uncomplicated and the complicated modes of spontaneous recovery.
No. 180 affords a good example of an extra-peritoneal injury, and of the especially fatal character of such lesions. This case was also one of my surgical disappointments.
Nos. 182, 183 are of great interest in several particulars. First, the aperture of exit was large and allowed the escape of fæces, not a very common feature in wounds not proving immediately fatal. Secondly, in neither were any peritoneal signs observed. Thirdly, in each the exit wound communicated with the pleura, and the patients died from septicæmia mainly due to absorption from the surface of that membrane (Pleural septicæmia).
No. 190 is a most striking instance of spontaneous cure, since no doubt can exist that both rectum and bladder were perforated.
(180*) Injury to the cæcum and ascending colon.--Boer, wounded at Graspan while sheltering behind a rock, lying on his back.
Entry (Lee-Metford), in right thigh, 3 inches below and 1 inch within anterior superior spine of ilium; exit, in back, on a level with the fourth lumbar spinous process and 3 inches from that point.
Half an hour after the wound the patient commenced to suffer severe stabbing pain; he lay on the field one hour; later he was taken to a Field hospital, and on the second day was sent by train a distance of twenty-five miles.
When seen at the end of fifty hours the condition was as follows. Face anxious, complexion dusky. Great abdominal pain, especially about the umbilicus. Vomiting frequent and distressing; bowels confined since the accident; tongue dry and furred. Urine scanty. Pulse full and strong, 125; respirations, entirely thoracic, 30.
Abdomen generally distended and tympanitic, wall rigid and motionless. Dulness in right flank, together with superficial oedema and emphysema.
Abdominal section fifty-three and a half hours after accident. Incision in right linea semilunaris. Great omentum adherent to ascending colon, which was covered with plastic lymph. Gas and intestinal contents escaped from an opening at the line of reflexion of the peritoneum from the ascending colon; retro-peritoneal extravasation and emphysema extended the whole length of the ascending colon and around duodenum, the wall of the colon itself exhibiting subperitoneal emphysema. The colon was freed and the rent sewn up with interrupted sutures. About [Symbol: ounce] iv of foul fæcal fluid were evacuated from loin, and a free counter-opening made. The opening in the ilium by which the bullet had entered the abdomen was found at the brim of the pelvis; the loin and peritoneal cavity were sponged dry and flushed with boiled water; no lymph was seen on the small intestine. A large gauze plug was inserted into the posterior wound, one end of the plug being brought out of the operation incision.
During the succeeding six days progress was not unsatisfactory: the abdomen became soft, moved with respiration, there was no sickness, and the bowels acted. The pulse fell to 90, respirations to 20, and the temperature did not exceed 102° F. The wound suppurated freely, however, and although there were no further signs of peritoneal septicæmia, it was evident that general infection had taken place, and on the sixth day a parotid bubo developed on the right side, which was opened.
On the seventh day the patient suddenly commenced to fail rapidly; vomiting was almost continuous--at first curdled milk, later frothy watery fluid--and on the eighth day he died. The abdomen remained soft, sunken, and flaccid, and death no doubt resulted from general septicæmia rather than from peritoneal infection, absorption taking place from the large foul cavity behind the colon. As the cavity in part surrounded the descending duodenum, this possibly accounted for the attack of vomiting which preceded death.
(181*) Ascending colon.--Wounded at Graspan while lying in prone position. Entry (Mauser), over ninth rib in line of right linea semilunaris; exit, in right buttock, just below and behind the top of the great trochanter.
The injury was followed by little abdominal pain, but a strange sensation of local gurgling was noted. The bowels acted as soon as the patient reached camp, some hours after being wounded. There was no sickness and nothing abnormal was noted in the motions, except that they were loose and light-coloured.
On the evening of the third day the patient came under observation in the ambulance train for Capetown. He looked somewhat anxious and ill, but he complained of little pain; the temperature was 102°, pulse 88, fair strength, soft and regular. There was local dulness, tenderness, and deficiency of movement in the right iliac region. As it was night, he was removed from the train and an operation was performed the next morning.
Prior to operation the condition was as follows: Pulse 84, temperature 100°; respiration easy, 20. Tongue moist, but thickly coated in centre. Abdomen moves fairly, and is resonant, except in right lower quadrant. No distension. Dulness, tenderness, and rigidity in right iliac region, marked to outer side of cæcum. Entry wound nearly and exit quite healed. Cannot flex right thigh. The following operation was performed. Appendix incision, about [Symbol: ounce]j of fæcal fluid and fæces in a localised cavity on outer and anterior aspect of cæcum evacuated; adhesions very firm. Cavity sloughy throughout and cæcum covered with dull grey lymph. The opening in the bowel was not localised, and it was considered wiser to treat the case like one of perforation from appendicitis than to run the risk of breaking down adhesions. A small awl-like opening was found in the ilium with powdered bone at its entrance leading to the wound of exit.
The after-treatment of the case gave rise to no anxiety, but healing of the resulting sinus was slow; fæcal-smelling pus escaped for some days, and a number of small sloughs came away. On the twelfth day the patient was sent down to Wynberg, where he remained twelve weeks. A counter-incision was needed in the loin to drain the suppurating cavity three weeks after the primary operation, and five weeks after the operation an escape of gas and fæces took place from the anterior wound, while the bowels were acting, as a result of a dose of castor oil. No further escape of fæces occurred, and he left for England with a small sinus only. No extension of inflammation into the original wound track ever occurred, both openings and the canal healing by primary union.
The sinus remained open, and occasionally discharged for a further period of six months, and then healed firmly; since when the patient has been in perfect health.
(182*) Splenic flexure, descending colon.--Wounded at Magersfontein. Entry (Mauser), in sixth left intercostal space in mid-axillary line; exit, in left loin, below last rib, at outer margin of erector spinæ. The patient remained in the Field hospital three days, during which time he exhibited no serious abdominal symptoms, but during the journey to Orange River (53-1/2 miles) he was sick. He remained at Orange River two days, and while there an enema was administered, producing a normal motion. The abdomen was slightly distended; it moved fairly, there was slight rigidity, but little tenderness. Temperature 100.8°, pulse 120. No appearance of fæces in wound.
When seen on the sixth day the condition was as follows:--Patient cheerful and not in great pain. Temperature 99.2°; pulse 120; respirations 48, very shallow. Abdomen soft, moving freely, no distension or general tenderness. Fluid fæces escaping in abundance from the wound in loin. Redness of skin and swelling below level of wound, and cellular emphysema above. Fæcal-smelling fluid was also escaping from the thoracic wound.
The wound was enlarged, but the patient rapidly sank, and died of septicæmia on the seventh day.
(183*) An exactly similar case came under observation from the battle of Modder River, except that the opening in the loin was somewhat larger, and earlier and freer escape of fæces took place from it. In this also fæcal matter passed freely into the left pleural cavity, and fæcal matter was expectorated, while there was an almost complete absence of abdominal symptoms. Death occurred on the fourth day.
No post-mortem examination was made in either case, but I believe in both the extra-peritoneal aspect of the colon was implicated and that the septicæmia was in great part due to absorption from the pleural rather than the peritoneal cavity, since in neither case were the abdominal symptoms a prominent feature.
(184) Possible wound of cæcum.--Wounded at Spion Kop. Bullet (Mauser) perforated the right forearm, then entered belly. Entry, 3 inches from the right anterior superior iliac spine, in the line of the supra-pubic fold of the belly wall (a transverse slit); exit, in right buttock, on a level with the tip of the great trochanter and 2 inches within it. The wound was received immediately after breakfast had been eaten. There was retention of urine and constipation for three days, but no sickness. Local pain and tenderness were severe, and at the end of three weeks there was still local tenderness, slight induration, and dragging pain on defæcation. The patient returned to England at the end of a month well, except for slight local tenderness.
(185) Possible wound of colon.--Wounded at Paardeberg; range 200 yards. Walking at time. The bullet (Mauser) perforated the left forearm, just below the elbow-joint. Entry, into belly 1 inch anterior to the tip of the left eleventh costal cartilage; no exit.
The injury was followed by pain in the left half of the abdomen and vomiting, which continued for two days. The bowels acted on the third day; no nourishment was taken for two days, but a small quantity of water was allowed. No further symptoms were noted, and at the end of a fortnight the patient was well, except for slight local tenderness. The bullet could not be detected with the X-rays.
(186) Wound of cæcum.--Wounded at Paardeberg. Entry (Mauser), 2 inches diagonally above and within right anterior superior iliac spine; exit, immediately to the right of the fifth lumbar spinous process; the patient was lying on his left side when struck. A burning pain down the right thigh immediately followed the accident, and lasted some days. There was no sickness, the bowels were confined three days, and there was pain across the back and down the thigh.
On the tenth day he arrived at the Base, when he was lying on his back suffering considerable pain. The temperature ranged to 101°. There was diarrhoea and cystitis, with a considerable amount of pus in the urine, which was very offensive. A small fluctuating spot existed on the back, just to the right of the original exit wound which was firmly healed. The abdomen moved fairly with respiration in its upper part, but was motionless below, especially in the right iliac fossa; some induration was to be felt here. The right thigh was kept flexed.
During the next few days the pus disappeared from the urine, and with this change the induration in the right iliac fossa increased. An incision (Mr. Gairdner) was made into the fluctuating spot behind, and pus evacuated. The patient recovered.
(187) Possible wound of cæcum.--Wounded outside Heilbron. Entry (Mauser), in the right loin, 2-1/2 inches above the iliac crest, at the margin of the erector spinæ; exit, 1-1/2 inch above and within the right anterior superior spine of the ilium. There was little shock. The patient was brought six miles in a wagon into camp, and slept comfortably with a small morphia injection. Prior to the accident the patient was suffering from diarrhoea, but afterwards the bowels were confined. The next morning there had been no sickness and little pain. The tongue was moist and clean, the pulse 80, the respirations 24, the belly moved generally, although inspiration was shallow; the temperature was 99°. Slight tenderness in the belly to the inner side of the exit wound, but no dulness.
The patient was starved for the first thirty-six hours, a little warm water then being allowed. No symptoms developed, and a perfect recovery followed.
(188) Colon, liver.--Wounded outside Heilbron. Entry (Mauser), midway between the last right rib and the crista ilii; exit, below the eighth costal cartilage in nipple line. There were no serious primary symptoms, but ten days after the accident the temperature rose, swelling and pain developed in the right loin, and on the fourteenth day a large tympanitic abscess was opened (Dr. Flockemann, German Ambulance.) Fæcal-smelling gas and pus were evacuated. There was no extension of the abscess forwards. A week later the patient had much improved, although there were evident signs of general absorption, and the discharge from the abscess cavity was abundant and very foul. On the thirteenth day a serious hæmorrhage occurred from the loin wound, which was opened up, but no evident source was discovered; hæmorrhage was repeated the next day, and the man died.
At the post-mortem examination a large quantity of chocolate-coloured fluid was found free in the abdomen and pelvis. A chain of small local abscesses was found surrounding the ascending colon, and a larger one over the front of the cæcum. The wall of the ascending colon was generally thickened, and from this, in three places, openings with rounded margins connected the abscess cavities with the lumen of the bowel. One of the openings, larger than the others, was possibly the aperture of entry of the bullet; the others were apparently spontaneous.
At the anterior border of the right lobe of the liver an abscess cavity existed in connection with the wound of the liver, and this was continuous with the aperture of exit, although not discharging. The aperture of exit was plugged by a tag of omentum (see fig. 89). No obvious source of the hæmorrhage was forthcoming, but it probably originated in one of the large branches of the vena cava. The bullet had struck the transverse process of the lumbar vertebra, but had not given rise to any signs of spinal concussion.
(189*) Ascending colon.--Wounded at Modder River. Entry (Mauser), midway between the tip of the tenth right rib and the iliac crest. Bullet retained. A second wound existed over the centre of the left sterno-mastoid, and the bullet here was also retained and never localised. The patient stated that he brought up blood at short intervals for half an hour immediately after he was wounded. This might have been explained by the wound in the neck, but no difficulty in swallowing was noted. The bowels acted the day after he was shot, and, except for some local tenderness and immobility, no abdominal signs were noted. Three weeks later a swelling was obvious to the right side of the umbilicus, and a tympanitic abscess developed; this was opened, and a deformed Mauser bullet extracted. Foul pus, but no fæcal matter, was evacuated, and after discharging for a fortnight the wound closed, and the man was sent home as 'well.' In this case I assumed a wound of the ascending colon had occurred.
(190*) Rectum and bladder.--Wounded at Graspan, while retiring at the double. Entry (Mauser), 1 inch to the right of the coccyx; exit, 1 inch above the junction of the middle and outer thirds of left Poupart's ligament. The man suffered with some pain in the abdomen, and for first two days with retention of urine. The urine was drawn off with the catheter, and contained blood. During the next five days micturition was hourly or more frequent; gas was passed per urethram, and the urine was very foul, containing evident fæcal matter. Micturition continued frequent, with purulent cystitis for one month. Local tenderness, pain, and immobility developed over the lower quarter of the abdomen, extending to the right iliac fossa. A local abscess pointed a little to the right of the mid line, and 2 inches above the symphysis, and from this foul-smelling pus, but no fæces, was discharged for three months, during which period the surrounding dulness and induration gradually decreased and the sinus healed. When the patient left for England there was still occasional slight discharge from the original wound of entry, and there was slight discomfort on micturition, but he was otherwise well.
A year later the man had resumed active duty, and, except for occasional pain on stooping, considered himself well.
The following cases are appended as of some general interest. The first two (191, 192) illustrate extra-peritoneal injuries to the rectum. In neither did positive evidence exist of wound of the bowel, but the symptoms in each rendered this accident probable. Case 193 is an illustration of apparent escape of the anal canal in a wound in which from the position of the external apertures this escape would have appeared impossible.
Wounds of the extra-peritoneal portion of the rectum, as a rule, appeared to have a somewhat better prognosis than would have been expected; in any case, the prognosis was far better than that obtaining in wounds of the base of the urinary bladder. My experience on the subject of these wounds was, however, limited to the two cases quoted.
Case 194 is inserted as an example of the complicated nature of the abdominal injuries not so very unfrequently met with. It illustrates well the difficulty which may arise at any stage in the course of treatment of an injury, in the certain determination or exclusion of wound of a part of the alimentary canal.
(191) Wounded at Magersfontein. Entry (Mauser), in the right loin, immediately below the ribs in the mid-axillary line; exit, about the centre of the left buttock, on a level with the tip of the great trochanter. A second lacerated shell wound of back was present. All the wounds suppurated. For the first sixteen days following the injury all control was lost over the anal sphincter, and bloody fæces, and later slime, constantly escaped, but no fæcal matter ever escaped from the wound in the buttock. There was no history of previous dysentery, and rectal examination afforded no information. The buttock wound had to be opened up, disclosing a tunnel in the ilium.
The wounds granulated slowly with continuous suppuration, but were healed, and the patient returned home at the end of fourteen weeks, the bowels acting normally.
(192) Wounded at Paardeberg. Entry (Mauser), at the junction of the middle and posterior thirds of the left iliac crest; the bullet was retained, and removed (Mr. Pegg) from the back of the right thigh, 3 inches below the back of the great trochanter. After the injury retention of urine followed, with incapacity to control loose motions, though solid ones could be retained. The retention was treated by catheterisation, which was followed by cystitis. The power of micturition was slowly recovered, and three weeks later he could pass water, at times in a dribbling stream only; the cystitis had improved. The man returned to England very much improved, but not quite well, at the end of five weeks.
(193) Wounded at Modder River. Entry, in the right buttock, near the outer border at the upper part; exit, at the lower part of outer border of left buttock. The line of the wound exactly crossed the position of the anus, but no sign of injury to the rectum could be discovered.
(194) Wounded at Magersfontein. Entry (Mauser), 1/2 inch below the margin of the iliac crest, at the junction of its middle and posterior thirds, and on a level with the fifth lumbar spinous process; exit, below the cartilage of the eighth rib, just within the left nipple line. Struck while retiring; fell at once, and remained thirty hours on the field. Patient stated that he vomited 'blood like coffee grounds' six times while lying on the field, and twice after being brought in. His bowels were confined for three days. His right lower extremity was paralysed.
On the fifth day there was considerable induration around the wound of exit, and the upper half of the abdomen was immobile and tender. The temperature rose to 100°, and the pulse was 96. Shortly afterwards a similar condition was noted in the lower half of the abdomen; the temperature continued to be raised and the pulse quickened, when on the thirteenth day a considerable quantity of pus was passed per rectum, and diarrhoea set in; this continued for three days, with marked improvement in the general symptoms. Micturition, which had been painful, became normal; the pulse and temperature fell, and the expression became less anxious. The patient continued to sleep badly, however, and complained of pain.
At the end of the third week he still looked ill, but was easier. Temperature normal in the morning, 100° in evening, pulse 80. Tongue thickly furred, but moist. Still on milk diet; appetite bad; bowels irregular.
The abdomen moved little in the lower half, induration persisted in the left iliac fossa, the left thigh continued flexed, and resonance was impaired to the left of the umbilicus.
At the end of six weeks a distinct hard swelling in two parts, separated by a resonant area, was noted to the left of the umbilicus and in the left iliac fossa. The abdomen moved fairly, and there was little tenderness over the swelling. During the next week the swelling appeared to increase and to fluctuate; at the same time the temperature again began to rise to 100° and 101° at eve. The swelling was taken to be a localised peritoneal suppuration, and an incision was made over it; but this led down to a free peritoneal cavity, with a tumour pressing up from the posterior abdominal wall. The wound was therefore closed, and a fresh extra-peritoneal incision made, immediately above Poupart's ligament, when the swelling proved to be a large retro-peritoneal hæmatoma. As the cavity extended into the pelvis and up to the level of the costal margin, it was deemed wise only to evacuate a part of the blood-clot. The origin of the bleeding was not determined, and the wound was closed and healed by first intention. The man continued to improve, and left for home five weeks later.
This patient has continued to improve since his return, but the left thigh is still somewhat flexed.
Prognosis in intestinal injuries.--This was of a most discouraging character compared with the prognosis in abdominal injuries as a whole. The cases were of two classes, however: those that died within twenty-four hours, and those that died at the end of from three days to a week.
Cases falling into the first category are obviously of little importance from the point of view of surgical treatment. Many of them died from the widespread nature of the injury, and the shock produced by it; others from hæmorrhage from the large abdominal vessels. It is unlikely that any could have been saved, even under the most satisfactory conditions.
In the following small table, therefore, I have included only the cases which have been already quoted, which survived long enough to be amenable to surgical treatment, and which were for some days under my own observation. Some of them, in fact almost all, I watched until they were either convalescent, or died, and in six I performed operations.
I am aware, and have short details of the histories of eight patients wounded in the same battles who died prior to the termination of the first thirty-six hours; but these are not included, for the reason stated above, and also because I am uncertain whether all the injuries were produced by bullets of small calibre.
-------------------------+-----------+-------------+-----------+------+ | | Localised | | | Viscous wounded | Number of | Secondary | Recovered | Died | | cases | suppuration | | | | | occurred | | | -------------------------+-----------+-------------+-----------+------+ Stomach certain | 2 | -- | 1 | 1 | Stomach possible | 1 | -- | 1 | -- | Small intestine certain | 5 | 0 | -- | 5 | Small intestine possible | 10 | 0 | 10 | -- | Large intestine certain | 8 | 4 | 4 | 4 | Large intestine possible | 4 | -- | 4 | -- | -------------------------+-----------+-------------+-----------+------+ Bladder certain | 3 | 3 | 1 | 2 | Bladder possible | 1 | -- | 1 | -- | Liver | 6 | -- | 6 | -- | Kidneys | 6 | -- | 4 | 2 | Spleen | 3 | -- | 2 | 1 | -------------------------+-----------+-------------+-----------+------+ Total | 49 | -- | 34 | 15 | -------------------------+-----------+-------------+-----------+------+
Included in the above table are thirty instances of intestinal injury, and these are divided up according to the segment of the intestinal canal implicated, and also as to whether the perforation was certain, or only assumed from the position of the external apertures and the presence of abdominal symptoms of a noticeable grade.
From this analysis it appears clear--
1. That wounds of the stomach have a comparatively good prognosis, and that they may recover spontaneously. It is true that only two examples are included in my table; but I was at various times shown patients with similar injuries and histories, and a number of cases which have been published appear to substantiate the opinion. From our experience of the occasional spontaneous recovery of gastric perforations from disease, I think we might be prepared to expect that the stomach would offer a comparatively favourable seat for these wounds. It may be pointed out, however, that hæmatemesis, the main feature in the symptoms pointing to wound, is by no means direct proof of more than contusion.
2. That perforating wounds of the small intestine are very fatal injuries; every patient in whom the condition was certainly diagnosed died.
3. That in the cases in which a perforation was inferred from the position of the external apertures and the symptoms, not one patient suffered from the secondary complications--e.g. local peritonitis and suppuration, which were common in the case of the large intestine, and which we are accustomed to see after perforation from disease. This renders the occurrence of actual perforation in the majority of the cases a matter of very grave doubt.
If spontaneous recovery does take place after this injury, it is only in cases in which the wounds are single, and slight in character.
4. That in eight cases in which perforation of the large intestine was certain, four recoveries took place; but in each instance suppuration occurred. I am, however, quite prepared to believe that perforation may have occurred in some or all of the other four cases included as 'possible,' provided the wounds were intra-peritoneal.
Wounds of the cæcum and ascending colon are those which have the best prognosis, and after these of the rectum. The comparatively good prognosis in these parts is what would be expected, on account of their greater fixity, and lesser tendency to be covered by the small intestine.
An extra-peritoneal wound of any of these portions of the bowel is more dangerous than an intra-peritoneal, and more likely to give rise to septicæmia.
Of the cases included in my table eighteen of the possible intestinal injuries were observed among the wounded of the four battles of the Kimberley relief force. These cases I saw early and followed to their termination, and I believe the list contains the great majority of all the patients who received intestinal wounds in those battles. On inquiry I could not learn of others from the officers of the Field hospitals; but no doubt some patients died before their reception into hospital, and some may have been overlooked; again, I know of two cases in which death took place within the first week, but which went direct to the Base and did not come under my observation. These exceptions being made, we have a fairly complete series, from which some deductions may be drawn. The cases included are marked with an asterisk.
Of the eighteen cases, eight or 44.4 per cent. died. These were made up as follows:--Stomach, one case; this patient died at the end of fourteen days, as a result of secondary hæmorrhage and septicæmia. It was complicated by a severe wound of the liver and also one of the lung.
Small intestine, four certain cases; all died, two after operation in the stage of septicæmia, and one after operation from recurrent hæmorrhage, possibly from the mesentery. Of the other six cases one can only say that the position of the wounds was such as to render wound of the intestine possible, and that all suffered with abdominal symptoms of some severity.
Large intestine. Of six cases in which wound was certain, three died, one after operation. One recovered after operation, two recovered with local peritoneal suppuration. In one case the injury could only be returned as possible.
In connection with this subject I have received permission from Mr. Watson Cheyne to quote the statistics published by him concerning the abdominal wounds observed after the fighting at Karree Siding, on March 29, which are as follows:--
'The number of the wounded was 154, and in fifteen it was considered that the abdominal cavity had been penetrated. Of these patients, five had already died within twenty-four to twenty-eight hours after the injury, and I saw ten who were still alive. Of these nine were left alone, and four died within the next twenty-four or thirty-six hours; five were still alive when I left Karee on Sunday afternoon, April 1. On one I operated, but he died on April 2.
The Karee statistics are really the only complete ones which I have as yet been able to obtain. The following are the notes of the cases above alluded to.
Besides the five cases of abdominal wounds which had already died, and of which I could get no complete details, the following ten are cases which I saw from twenty-four to thirty hours after they were shot:--
CASES FROM THE ACTION AT KAREE
CASE I.--The point of entrance was 2 inches to the right of the umbilicus, and the bullet was found lying under the skin far back in the left loin. The patient was pulseless, and there was much rigidity of the abdomen, tenderness, and vomiting. He died a few hours later.
CASE II.--The bullet, coming from the side, had entered the abdomen 4 inches below and behind the right nipple. There was no exit wound. The patient had been vomiting a good deal, but not any blood; the abdomen was very rigid and tender. He was obviously very ill, and died the next morning. The bullet had probably perforated the liver and stomach.
CASE III.--There was a large wound above the right anterior iliac spine (probably the point of exit), and a small opening behind and near the spine on the same side. There was great tenderness and rigidity of the abdomen. He died a few hours later.
CASE IV.--In this case there was a transverse wound of the abdomen, the bullet having entered on the right side in the middle of the lumbar region and passed out on the left side, rather higher up and further back. All the symptoms of acute peritonitis were present. The patient died the next morning.
CASE V.--The bullet had entered the anterior end of the sixth intercostal space on the left side, and was found lying under the skin over the seventh intercostal space on the right side and about 2 inches further back. He had vomited blood on the previous day. The bullet may have perforated the stomach. The epigastrium was somewhat tender, but there were no marked symptoms. On April 1 he was going on well.
CASE VI.--The place of entrance of the bullet was 1 inch in front of the right anterior superior spine, and of exit behind the left sacro-iliac synchondrosis. There was much hæmorrhage at the time. His condition when I saw him was fair, and there was no marked abdominal tenderness. On April 1 his morning temperature was 101°. There were no signs of general peritonitis, and his condition was good.
CASE VII.--The bullet had entered from behind, about the tip of the twelfth rib on the left side, and had left about the middle of the epigastrium, and rather to the left of the middle line.
Vomiting was still going on, but not of blood. There was much tenderness and rigidity of the abdomen, and he was almost pulseless. On April 1 his general condition was better, but the abdomen was very rigid and tender. (Subsequently died.)
CASE VIII.--The point of entrance of the bullet was about 2 inches from the anterior end of the seventh left intercostal space, and of exit rather lower down and further back on the right side. The patient said that he had vomited brown fluid after the injury. There was much abdominal pain, but his general condition was fair. On April 1 there was still much pain, but his general condition was good.
CASE IX.--The bullet had entered about 1-1/2 inch in front of the anterior inferior spine on the right side, had gone directly backwards, and had come out in the buttock. The patient, however, suffered very little. On March 31 there was slight tympanites and tenderness in the right iliac fossa. The bowels acted well, and no blood was passed. On April 1 he was very well, and it was considered very doubtful if any viscus was wounded.
CASE X.--The point of entrance was in the middle of the right buttock, a little above the level of the trochanter; the exit was through the anterior abdominal wall in the right semilunar line at the level of the umbilicus. The patient was decidedly ill; the abdomen was a good deal distended, and pressure on it caused an escape of gas through the anterior opening. There was a good deal of abdominal tenderness and rigidity. I opened the abdomen outside the right linea semilunaris, and found a perforation in the anterior wall of the ascending colon, without any adhesions around, which was easily stitched up. The posterior opening was found about 2 inches lower down, with a piece of omentum firmly adherent to it and completely closing it. As the patient was in a bad state, I thought it better, instead of excising the piece of intestine beyond the holes or tearing off the omentum, to leave the wounds alone, merely cleaning out the peritoneal cavity as well as I could and arranging for free drainage. He rallied from the operation very well, and for twenty-four hours it looked as if he might get better; but he gradually got worse and died on April 2.'
The above statistics are particularly valuable, as they give the incidence of abdominal injuries compared with those in general in one definite battle. This amounted to the high number of 15 in 154 or 9.74 per cent. wounded. I am inclined to think that this is a higher proportion than the average of the campaign, and that more of the men must have been exposed in the erect position than was ordinarily the case during the fighting.
The statistics also show that 33.33 per cent. of the patients with abdominal injuries died within from twenty-four to twenty-eight hours, and that the percentage of deaths had risen to 73.33 per cent. at the end of the third day. These numbers again seem high, but in this relation it may be noted that, as a small force only was present, and as all the patients were together, Mr. Cheyne had unusually good opportunities for seeing all the cases.
One other point is doubtful from the report, and that is what percentage of the wounds were caused by bullets of small calibre. In one case it is definitely stated that the wound was large, and in the second that gas escaped from the wound; both of these may have been instances in which a large bullet, or some expanding form, had been employed, and there is no doubt that the use of such projectiles was more common at this stage of the campaign than it was earlier.
Treatment of injuries to the intestine.--Some general rules for the immediate treatment of all cases may be laid down. First, the patients must be removed with as little disturbance as possible, and absolute starvation must be insisted upon. If the patients be suffering from severe shock, hypodermic injections of strychnine should be administered, or possibly some stimulant by the rectum.
After a battle, when these cases may be brought in in considerable number, they should be collected and placed in the same tent. The objection to congregating a number of severely wounded patients together must be disregarded in the face of the manifest advantage of being able to treat all alike in the matter of feeding. After the battles of the Kimberley relief force, Surgeon-General Wilson, at my request, had all the abdominal cases placed in a large marquee, where we were able to carefully watch the whole of the patients from hour to hour, and little chance existed for any indiscretion on the part of the patients in the way of eating or drinking.
If possible, the patients should be kept absolutely quiet until they are evidently out of danger. A week's stay at Orange River sufficed for this object in the cases referred to. The avoidance of transport is manifestly of extreme prognostic importance.
When feeding is commenced at the end of twenty-four or thirty-six hours, it must be in the form at first of warm water, then milk administered in tea-spoonfuls only.
In doubtful cases the use of morphia must be avoided.
Operative treatment is required in a certain number of the cases, but in the majority of instances we are met with the extreme difficulty that in a very large proportion of the occasions upon which these wounds are received an exploratory abdominal section is not warranted in consequence of the conditions under which it has to be performed.
A word must be added as to these difficulties; they are in part purely of an administrative nature, partly surgical. After a great battle the wounded are numerous, and amongst them a very considerable proportion of the wounds and injuries are of such a nature as to do extremely well if promptly dealt with, and each of these makes small demands on the time of the staff. Abdominal operations, on the other hand, are unsatisfactory from a prognostic point of view, and their performance requires much time and the assistance of a considerable number of the men, who are obliged to neglect the treatment of the more promising cases for those of doubtful issue. This difficulty, although not surgical in its nature, is nevertheless a practical one of great importance and appeals strongly to the Principal Medical Officers in charge of the arrangements. It is only to be avoided by an increase of the staff, which is not likely to be made except on very special occasions.
Other difficulties are purely surgical. First, the difficulty of diagnosing with certainty a perforating lesion. In the presence of the fact that many incomplete lesions follow wounds crossing the intestinal area, and that these give rise to modified symptoms, I believe this determination to be impossible without the aid of an exploratory incision. Here we are met with the remaining surgical difficulties--disadvantages such as the absence of sufficient aid to the operating surgeon, difficulties connected with the temperature, wind, and dust, and as to the subsequent treatment of the patient. Again difficulty in obtaining the most important adjunct, suitable water, or indeed any water in a sufficient quantity.
It is of course obvious that conditions may exist in which all these troubles may be avoided. Again, the practical difficulty adverted to above does not come in the way when a single man happens to sustain an abdominal wound on the march. Under such circumstances an exploration may be not only justifiable, but obligatory, and the general rules of surgery must be followed rather than such incomplete indications as are suggested below.
My own experience led me to the following conclusions:
1. A wound in the intestinal area should be watched with care. In the face of the numerous recoveries in such cases, habitual abdominal exploration is not justified, under the conditions usually prevailing in the field.
2. The very large class of patients excluded by this rule from operation leads us to a smaller and less satisfactory number to be divided into two categories:
Patients who die during the first twelve hours. The whole of these are naturally unfit for operation, and their general condition when seen often precludes any thought of it.
Patients with very severe injuries, as evidenced by the escape of fæces, or with wounds from flank to flank or taking an antero-posterior course in the small intestinal area. These patients die, and the majority of them will always die whether operated upon or not. The undertaking of operations upon them is unpleasant to the surgeon, as being unlikely to be attended with any great degree of success, whence the impression may gain ground that patients are killed by the operations. None the less, I think these operations ought to be undertaken when the attendant conditions allow, and it is from this class of case that the real successes will be drawn in the future. The history of such injuries, after all, corresponds exactly with what we were long familiar with in traumatic ruptures in civil practice, and now know may be avoided by a sufficiently early interference. The whole question here is one of time, and this will always be the trouble in military work.
3. The expectant attitude which is obligatory under the above rules in doubtful cases, brings us face to face with a large proportion of patients in the early or late stage of peritoneal septicæmia. These cases run on exactly the same lines as those in which the same condition is secondary to spontaneous perforation of the bowel, in which we consider it our duty to operate, and in which a definite percentage of recoveries is obtained. Hence another unpleasant duty is here imposed upon the surgeon. Two such cases on which I operated are recounted above, and although I cannot say they give much encouragement, I should add that in the only one I left untouched, I regretted my want of courage for the five days during which the patient continued to carry on a miserable existence.
4. The treatment of the cases in which an expectant attitude is followed by the advent of localised suppuration presents no difficulty; simple incision alone is needed, and healing follows.
As a rule this is a late condition. In one case of injury to the ascending colon recounted above, however, considerable local escape of fæces had occurred, and a successful result was obtained by a local incision on the third day without suture of the bowel. In this case I believe the wound in the bowel to have been of the nature of a long slit, but the surrounding adhesions were so firm as to render any interference with them a great risk, and a successful result was obtained at the cost of a somewhat prolonged recovery. I am convinced that the best course was followed here. (No. 131.)
When the suppuration was of a less acute character, it was generally advisable to allow the pus to make its way towards the surface before interference.
5. Cases of injury to the colon in which the posterior aspect is involved should be treated by free opening up of the wound, and either by suture of the bowel or else its fixation to the surface. I operated on one such case, and although the patient eventually died on the eighth day, from septicæmia, he certainly had a chance. Two cases where the opening looked so free that one almost thought the wound could be regarded as a lumbar colotomy did badly; in both infection of the pleura took place, besides extension of suppuration into the retro-peritoneal areolar tissue. In the future I should always feel inclined to enlarge such wounds and bring the bowel to the surface.
As regards actual technique the majority of the wounds are particularly well suited to suture; three stitches across the opening and one at either end of the resulting crease sufficed to close the opening effectively. The openings in the small intestine were not as a rule difficult to find, on account of the ecchymosis which surrounded them. From what I have seen stated in the reports given by other surgeons, there seems to have been more difficulty in discovering wounds in the large gut. Under ordinary circumstances the only instruments specially needed are a needle and some silk. At my first two operations, as my instruments had gone astray, the wounds were readily closed by a needle and cotton borrowed from the wife of a railway porter.
If aseptic sponges or pads are not available, boiled squares of ordinary lint may be employed for the belly, and towels wrung out of 1 to 20 carbolic acid solution used to surround the field of operation. Whenever there is any likelihood of the necessity for operations, water boiled and filtered should be kept ready in special bottles.
When septic peritonitis was already present, the ordinary procedure of dry mopping, followed by irrigation, was necessary, before closing the belly.
The after-treatment should be on the usual lines as to feeding, &c.
I am unaware to what degree success followed intestinal operations generally during the campaign. I saw only one case in which the small intestine had been treated by excision and the insertion of a Murphy's button in which a cure followed: this case was in the Scottish Royal Red Cross hospital under the care of Mr. Luke. I heard of two cases in which the large intestine was successfully sutured, and of one other in which recovery followed the removal of a considerable length of the small bowel for multiple wounds.
In concluding these most unsatisfactory remarks, I should add that the impressions are those that were gained as the result of the conditions by which we were bound in South Africa, and which might recur even in a more civilised region. Under really satisfactory conditions nothing I saw in my South African experience would lead me to recommend any deviation from the ordinary rules of modern surgery, except in so far as I should be more readily inclined to believe that wounds in certain positions already indicated might occur without perforation of the bowel when produced by bullets of small calibre; and further in cases where I believed the fixed portion of the large bowel was the segment of the alimentary canal that had been exposed to risk, I should not be inclined to operate hastily.
A careful consideration of the whole of the cases that I saw leaves me with the firm impression that perforating wounds of the small intestine differ in no way in their results and consequences when produced by small-calibre bullets, from those of every-day experience, although when there is reason merely to suspect their presence an exploration is not indicated under circumstances that may add a fresh danger to the patient.
Wounds of the urinary bladder.--Perforating wounds of the bladder are the injuries nearest akin to those we have just considered, but a great gulf separates them, in so far as the escape of a few drops or even a considerable quantity of normal urine does not necessarily mean peritoneal infection. The difference in this particular was very forcibly demonstrated in my experience, since an uncomplicated perforation of the bladder in the intra-peritoneal portion of the viscus proved to be an injury that not infrequently recovered spontaneously, I believe in a considerable proportion of the cases.
I include only one such case in my list because it was the only example which happened to be under my personal observation during its whole course, but from time to time I was shown several others in which the position of the external apertures and the transient presence of hæmaturia left little doubt as to the nature of the injury. The case recounted above, No. 190, is of especial interest, since the patient recovered from an injury which involved both the bladder and a fixed portion of the large intestine in contact with its posterior surface.
In another, No. 194, a transient inflammatory thickening pointed to a local inflammation of a non-infective character, since no suppuration ensued, and this may have been a case of extra-peritoneal wound; on the other hand, the bladder may have entirely escaped injury. In wounds of the portions of the viscus not clad in peritoneum, as a rule, a very different prognosis obtains. Two typical cases are related, which I believe fairly represent the general results which follow when the bladder is either wounded behind the symphysis or at the base. The first case, No. 195, exemplifies a very characteristic form of wound when small-calibred bullets are concerned. The bullet, taking a course more or less parallel to that of the wall of the viscus, cut a long slit in its anterior wall. This bullet in its onward passage comminuted the horizontal ramus of the pubes, and lodged in the thigh. Into the latter region the greater part of the extravasated urine escaped. I think the history of this case fully shows that I made a blunder in not performing a proper exploration, instead of contenting myself with an incision in the thigh. My only excuse was that the patient at the time I saw him was in a very collapsed state, and a severe grade of abdominal distension suggested that septic peritonitis was already in an advanced stage. In point of fact, the patient at once improved, sufficiently so to be able to undergo a second exploration at a later date by Mr. Hanwell at the Base, only dying of septicæmia at the end of twenty-one days. Even a free supra-pubic vent might, I believe, have given him a chance of life.
When the perforation was at the base of the bladder, however, the prognosis was very bad, and, as far as I know, not a single patient escaped death. The increase of risk in an extra-peritoneal wound of this viscus is indeed very great, while an intra-peritoneal perforation may be considered an injury of lesser severity, provided the urine be of normal character.
(194a) Possible wound of the bladder.--Wounded at Magersfontein. Entry (Mauser), immediately above the symphysis pubis; exit, in the buttock, behind the tip of the left great trochanter. The man was struck while advancing, and fell, thinking at the time 'that he was struck in the foot.' He lay twelve hours on the field, and passed water for the first time when the bearer removed him. During the next two days he passed urine only twice, and no blood was noticed. The bowels acted on the evening of the third day. When seen on the fourth day he complained of aching pain in the lower part of the belly, and a concentric patch of tender induration extended for about 1-1/2 inch around the wound. The abdominal wall was moving well. The tongue was clean and moist. There was no blood in the urine, and micturition was not frequent. Temperature 99.4°. Pulse 80, good strength. The patient was then sent to the Base. At the end of seventeen days there was still a little tenderness in the left iliac fossa; but the man was otherwise well, and at the end of a month he was sent home.
(195) Extra-peritoneal wound of the bladder.--Wounded at Magersfontein. Entry (Mauser), at the fore part of the right buttock. No exit. The patient was seen on the third day. He had an expression of extreme anxiety, and complained of very great pain in the abdomen and thigh. The abdomen was greatly distended and tympanitic, and the left thigh and groin were very much swollen and oedematous, with some redness of surface. Temperature 100°, pulse 120. No sickness, tongue moist, bowels confined. Retention of urine. The condition of the patient was very grave; but he was anæsthetised, clear urine was withdrawn from the bladder by catheter, and an incision was made into the thigh just below the inner third of Poupart's ligament, where fluctuation was evident. Two pints of bloody urine were evacuated, and when a finger was introduced it passed over a fracture of the pubes into the pelvis, but not into the peritoneal cavity. In view of the patient's condition it was not thought wise to proceed further, and he somewhat improved later, and was sent to the Base. Loss of power in the right lower extremity pointed to injury to the anterior crural nerve.
On the patient's arrival at Wynberg there were signs of local peritonitis in the lower half of the abdomen, and all his urine was passed from the wound in the left thigh. Some days later this wound was enlarged to allow of the freer exit of pus, and a fragment of bone was removed. The wound granulated healthily, but the man steadily emaciated and lost ground, with signs of chronic septicæmia, and he died on the twenty-first day. At the post-mortem examination a transverse wound of the anterior wall of the bladder behind the pubes, below the peritoneal reflexion, was found gaping somewhat widely, and 2 inches in length. There was little sign of previous peritonitis. The retained bullet was discovered beneath the femoral vessels in the left thigh.
(196) Extra-peritoneal perforation of the bladder.--Wounded at Paardeberg. Entry (Mauser), 3 inches above the left tuber ischii; exit, above the symphysis, immediately over the right margin of the penis. The patient was retiring to fetch ammunition when shot. Urine was noted to escape from both apertures the day after, and this continued until he was sent down to the Base on the fourteenth day. The patient was then considerably emaciated, complained of great pain, especially down the left thigh (sciatic nerve), the temperature averaged 100°, the pulse 80, tongue clean and moist, bowels acted regularly, no sign of injury to the rectum. He was taking food fairly, but was very sleepless. Urine was passed per urethram, and also escaped by both wounds. The abdomen was flaccid and sunken, respiratory movements being confined to the upper half.
As there was evidence of considerable infiltration in the buttock, the original entry wound was enlarged, and a catheter was tied into the bladder. Little change occurred in the symptoms and the local condition, urine and pus continued to escape freely from the posterior wound, and the patient gradually sank, dying on the thirty-eighth day. At the post-mortem examination the peritoneum was found intact and unaltered, but there was extensive pelvic cellulitis around the bladder, a large slough and some pus lying in the cavum Retzii. An aperture of entry still open existed in the centre of the anterior wall of the bladder, and a patent exit opening at the base of the trigone. The bullet had passed out of the pelvis by the great sciatic notch.
The above remarks and cases sufficiently set forth the prognosis in these injuries. For the intra-peritoneal lesions an expectant plan of treatment may be followed by uncomplicated recovery. Mention has already been made of a case in which a Mauser bullet was retained in the bladder and was subsequently passed per urethram. In such a case a cystotomy would be indicated were the bullet discovered in the viscus.
As to extra-peritoneal injuries it is difficult to lay down guiding lines. I believe the ideal treatment would be a supra-pubic cystotomy and drainage of the bladder by a Sprengel's pump apparatus, such as we employ at home. Under these circumstances, with the possibility of keeping the bladder actually empty, I believe good results might be obtained. Certainly drainage of the bladder by a catheter tied in proved worse than useless, and I very much doubt whether a simple supra-pubic opening would give any better results under the circumstances under which a patient has to be treated in a Field hospital.
Cases might, however, occur in which oblique passage of the bullet cuts a groove and makes a large opening in the peritoneum-clad portion of the viscus. Under satisfactory conditions a laparotomy would be here indicated. I take it that this condition would most probably be accompanied by retention of bloody urine, which fact would arouse suspicion.
INJURIES TO THE SOLID ABDOMINAL VISCERA
Wounds of the kidney.--Tracks implicating the kidneys were of comparatively common occurrence. As uncomplicated injuries they healed rapidly, and without producing any serious symptoms beyond transient hæmaturia.
The nature of the lesion appeared to vary with the direction of the wound. In many cases a simple puncture no doubt alone existed, an injury no more to be feared than the exploratory punctures often made for surgical purposes. In other cases the wounds may have been of the nature of notches and grooves.
Two of the cases recounted below were of a more severe variety; in one (No. 201) both kidneys were implicated by symmetrical wounds of the loin, and in the case of the right organ a transverse rupture was produced, which was followed by the development of a hydro-nephrosis, and later by suppuration. This injury was probably the result of a wound from a short range, as the patient was one of those wounded in the early part of the day at the battle of Magersfontein. It was complicated by a wound of the spleen and an injury to the spinal cord producing incomplete paraplegia accompanied by retention of urine. The last complication was responsible for the death of the patient, since ascending infection from the bladder led to the development of pyo-nephrosis and death from secondary peritonitis.
Case 202 is an instance of a transverse wound of the upper part of the abdominal cavity; it is impossible to say what further complications were present. The early development of a tympanitic abscess suggested an injury to the colon, but this was not by any means certain. The condition of the kidney was very likely similar to that in the last case, but the ultimate recovery of the patient left this a matter of doubt. The case was also one dependent on a short-range wound, since the patient, one of the Scandinavian contingent, was wounded at Magersfontein during close fighting.
The common history of the symptoms after a wound of the kidney was moderate hæmorrhage from the organ, persisting for two to four days. In one of the cases recounted below the hæmaturia was accompanied by the passage of ureteral clots, but this was not a common occurrence.
For the sake of comparison I have included one case of wound of the kidney from a large bullet, in which death was due to internal hæmorrhage. In this instance the injury was a complex one, the lung certainly, and the back of the liver probably, being concurrently injured. None the less if the same track had been produced by a bullet of small calibre I believe the injury would not have proved a fatal one. I never saw such free renal hæmorrhage in any of the Mauser or Lee-Metford wounds.
(197) Wound of right kidney.--Wounded at Modder River while lying in the prone position; retired 100 yards at the double with his company, and walked a further 1-1/2 mile. There was very slight bleeding. Entry (Mauser), in the tenth right intercostal space in the mid-axillary line; exit, in eleventh interspace, 2 inches from the spinous processes. Cylindrical blood-clots, 3 inches in length, were passed on the first two occasions of micturition after the accident, and the urine contained blood. For four days he could only lie on the wounded side. When seen on the third day the urine was normal, and there were no signs of injury to either thoracic or abdominal viscera. He returned to England well at the end of a month.
(198) Wound of right kidney.--Wounded at Modder River while kneeling to dress another man's wound. Entry (Mauser), in the seventh right intercostal space in the nipple line; exit, 1 inch to the right of the twelfth dorsal spine. The man was carried off the field, and during the first day vomited frequently. For two days there was blood in his urine, and he passed water four to five times daily. He returned to duty at the end of three weeks.
(199) Wound of the left kidney.--Wounded at Magersfontein. Entry (Mauser), 2 inches to the left and 1 inch below the left nipple. No exit. Lying in prone position when struck. Bloody urine was passed at normal intervals for four days, when the hæmaturia ceased. No thoracic signs, and no other sign of abdominal injury. There was tenderness in the left loin below the twelfth rib for some days, possibly over the position of the bullet, but the latter was neither localised nor removed.
(200) Wound of the right kidney.--Wounded at Magersfontein while retiring on his feet. Entry (Mauser), immediately to the right of the second lumbar spinous process; bullet retained and lay beneath margin of ninth right costal cartilage. The man passed urine containing blood twelve times during the first day, and hæmaturia continued until the evening of the third day. On the third day the belly was tumid and did not move well; there was no dulness in the right flank. Pulse 120, fair strength. Temperature 99°. Respirations 20. Tongue moist, bowels confined for four days. The fifth day the pulse fell to 76, and the bowels were moved by an enema. Great tenderness over bullet. The tenderness persisted over the bullet and also in the right flank until the tenth day, when the bullet was removed. At the end of a month the patient returned to England well but during the third week there was occasionally blood in the urine.
(201) Wound of both kidneys (rupture of right) and spleen.--Wounded at Magersfontein. Entry (Mauser), (a) 1 inch to right of second lumbar spinous process; (b) above angle of left ninth rib: exits, (a) 1 inch internal to right anterior superior iliac spine; (b) in seventh intercostal space in mid-axillary line. The wound on the right side gave rise to a lesion of the lumbar bulb (see p. 315), and the patient suffered throughout with retention. There was complete paralysis of the right lower extremity, both motor and sensory. For ten days there was hæmaturia, and very severe cystitis developed, while the patient suffered with severe abdominal pain. The cystitis persisted, also retention, which gradually gave way to dribbling, while irregular rise of temperature and tenderness in the loins pointed to ascending inflammation in the ureters. The patient gradually lost ground, and a month later suddenly developed signs of peritonitis, severe vomiting, distension, and dulness in the right flank; and in two days he died.
At the post-mortem examination the following condition was found:--On the right side general pleural adhesions, recent lymph over ascending colon and cæcum, [Symbol: ounce]vj of bloody fluid in a localised cavity between colon, kidney, stomach, and liver. Lower quarter of right kidney in half its width separated from main part of organ, yellow in colour, and enveloped in disintegrating clot. Blood-staining of psoas sheath; no injury to vertebral column or to bowel detected.
On the left side recent pleural adhesions and consolidation of base of lung, rent of diaphragm; spleen soft and disorganised and presenting a yellow cicatrix at its upper end, and at antero-external aspect of left kidney was a soft yellow puckered spot about the size of a florin, dipping 3/4 of an inch into the organ, which was otherwise healthy, beyond congestion. The capsules of both kidneys were adherent, but there was no sign of suppuration.
(202) Wound of right kidney. Traumatic hydronephrosis.--Wounded at Magersfontein. Entry (Lee-Metford), in the eleventh intercostal space in the posterior axillary line; exit, in the tenth right interspace, in mid axillary line. The patient was in the prone position when struck, and lay on the field from 5 A.M. until 6 P.M. There was no sickness, and the bowels did not act. When seen on the fourth day he was cheerful, but in some pain. The abdominal wall moved well, but was rigid; there was some general distension, and very marked local distension of the gastric area extending across to the right, so that a depressed band extended between the upper and lower parts of the belly. There was marked local dulness in the right flank, which did not shift on movement; the abdomen was elsewhere tympanitic. Tongue furred, bowels confined; there has been no sickness, and no hæmatemesis. Urine normal, and in good quantity. Temperature 100°. Pulse 84, good strength. There was impairment of sensation in the area of distribution of the external cutaneous and crural branch of the genito-crural nerves.
On the sixth day the bowels acted, after the administration of [Symbol: ounce]j of sulphate of magnesia, and the distension was much lessened, although the belly retained its unusual appearance. The dulness in the flank was unaltered. Temperature 100.8°, pulse 92.
A week later the man was much improved, suffering no pain. Temperature ranged from 99 to 100°, and the pulse about 80. The abdomen was normal in appearance, except for general prominence of the right thorax in the hepatic area.
During the third week a large tympanitic abscess developed at the aperture of exit, and this was opened (Mr. S. W. F. Richardson) through the chest, and a large collection of foul-smelling pus, but no fæcal matter, evacuated. The patient again improved, but a fortnight later a swelling and apparent signs of local peritonitis developed in the right inguinal and lower umbilical and lumbar regions. An incision made over this, however, disclosed a normal peritoneal cavity and was closed.
At the end of ten weeks the patient was sent to the Base hospital; a large firm swelling was then evident, extending from the liver to the inguinal region, and nearly to the median line. This gradually increased until it filled half the belly; it was at first thought to be a retro-peritoneal hæmatoma (similar to that described in case 194), but it became quite soft and fluctuating, and was then tapped, and [Symbol: ounce]50 of blood-stained fluid, which proved to be urine, were removed. The urine rapidly reaccumulated, and the cavity was then laid freely open. Urine continued to discharge in large quantity for two months, the man meanwhile remaining well, and passing a somewhat variable daily quantity of urine ([Symbol: ounce]xxiv-[Symbol: ounce]lx).
At the end of six months the wound had healed, and the man was serving as an orderly in the hospital.
(203) Wound of right kidney and lung.--Wounded near Paardekraal, while crawling on hands and knees. Entry (Martini-Henry, or small bullet making lateral impact), just above the right nipple, opening ragged and large, bullet retained. There was very severe shock, accompanied by vomiting, but no hæmatemesis. Later there was some hæmoptysis. Pulse 120, respirations 48.
Twenty-four hours later the vomiting had ceased; the patient had passed a restless night, in spite of an injection of morphia. He lay on his right side, pale and collapsed, but answered questions and was quite collected. Pulse imperceptible, respirations 56; the abdomen moved freely. The urine had been passed twice, and was chiefly blood. The patient died shortly afterwards, apparently mainly from internal hæmorrhage, although restlessness was not a prominent feature. As the Column was on the march no autopsy was possible.
The treatment of uncomplicated wounds of the kidney consisted in the ensurance of rest, either alone, or with the administration of opium if the hæmaturia was severe. The after-treatment in the event of the development of hydronephrosis is on ordinary lines. Tapping, or incision followed by extirpation of the injured viscus, if the less severe procedures failed. I never saw a case where renal hæmorrhage suggested the removal of the kidney as a primary step, and much doubt whether such a case is likely to be met with, as the result of a wound from a bullet of small calibre.
Wounds of the liver.--Wounds of the liver were, I believe, responsible for more cases of death from primary hæmorrhage than those of the kidney. I heard of a few cases in which this occurred, although I never saw one. Case 204 is of considerable interest as illustrating the result of an injury to one of the large bile ducts. Putting the deaths from primary hæmorrhage on one side, the prognosis in hepatic wounds was as good as in those of the kidneys. A few fairly uncomplicated cases are quoted below, but wounds of the liver occurred in connection with a large number of other injuries both of the chest and abdomen, and except in the case of wound of the stomach, recorded on page 425, No. 164, and in case 188, I never saw any troublesome consequences ensue.
Nature of the lesions.--I never saw any case of so-called explosive lesion of the liver, such as have been described from experimental results; this may have been due to the fact that such patients rapidly expired, but such were never admitted into the hospitals.
The most favourable cases were those in which a simple perforation was effected; such were usually attended by a practical absence of symptoms, unless a large bile duct had been implicated, when a temporary biliary fistula resulted.
Biliary fistulæ were, however, much more common when the bullet scored the surface of the organ. One such case is recounted under the heading of injuries to the stomach, No. 164. Here a deep gaping cleft with coarsely granular margins extended the whole antero-posterior length of the under surface of the left lobe, and the escape of bile was free. This was the nearest approach to one of the so-called explosive injuries I met with.
Case 207 is an example of a superficial injury from a bullet possibly of small calibre in which a superficial groove was followed by temporary escape of bile, and it is of interest to note a very similar condition in a shell injury (No. 210) recorded on p. 477.
Although both these cases recovered, I think notching and superficial grooving must be considered much more serious injuries than pure perforation. (See case 188, p. 442.)
The symptoms observed in these injuries have been already indicated in the above description of the nature of the lesions. They consisted in the pure perforations of practically nothing, in the grooves or the perforations implicating a large duct in the escape of bile. In two of the cases in which a biliary fistula was present transient jaundice was noticed.
In many cases the accompanying wound of the diaphragm gave rise to much discomfort; again, in the transverse wounds the action of the heart was often affected by the local cardiac shock accompanying the injury. In one case in which the colon was at the same time wounded (No. 188), an abscess formed at the site of the hepatic wound, as might have been expected.
As uncomplicated injuries, these wounds were little to be feared. Except as a source of hæmorrhage in rapidly dying patients, I never heard of a fatality. As a complication of other injuries, however, the wound of the liver, as has been shown, was sometimes of importance. It was remarkable in case 204 how little trouble the biliary fistula gave rise to, although the bile was discharged across the pleural cavity.
The treatment consisted in rest, and morphia in the cases of suspected progressive hæmorrhage, or in the presence of great pain. In cases where bile was escaping, it was important to ensure a free vent for the secretion.
(204) Wound of liver. Biliary fistula.--Wounded at Magersfontein. Entry (Lee-Metford), below the seventh rib, in the left nipple line; exit, through the eighth rib, in the mid axillary line on the right side. The patient lay for seventeen hours on the field, during which time the bowels acted once, but there was no sickness. The bowels then remained confined. When seen on the third day the abdomen was normal and the chest resonant throughout on both sides; bile to the amount of some ounces escaped from the wound on the right side. Suffering no pain; temperature 99°, pulse 100. The bowels acted freely the following day.
During the next fortnight there was little change; [Symbol: ounce]ii-iij of bile escaped daily, and there was occasional diarrhoea. At the end of that time, however, the temperature rose; there was local redness and evidence of retention of pus. The wound was therefore enlarged, some fragments of rib removed, and a drainage tube inserted. After this the temperature fell, and for the next two months the patient suffered little except from the discharge from the sinus; this persisted for three months, becoming less in amount and less bile-stained, the fistula eventually closing in the fourteenth week, when the patient was sent home on parole.
(205) Wound of liver.--Entry (Mauser), 1 inch below and to the left of the ensiform cartilage; exit, in the sixth right intercostal space, just behind the posterior axillary line. The trooper was sitting bolt upright on his horse at the time; both were shot and fell together. 'Stitch' on coughing or laughing was the only sign noted after the accident; this rapidly subsided.
(206) Wound of the liver.--Wounded at Magersfontein. Entry (Mauser), through the seventh left costal cartilage, 1 inch from the base of the ensiform cartilage; exit, below the twelfth rib 2 inches to the right of the lumbar spines. The patient lay on the field some hours and was brought in at night very cold, and suffering with much shock. No signs of abdominal injury developed, but the pulse remained as slow as 66 for some days, and there was some pain and stiffness about back and sides, or on taking a deep breath. These signs persisted some days, but no others developed, and in six weeks the patient returned to duty.
Some three months later this patient suffered from a short severe attack suggesting local peritonitis, but he again returned to duty.
(207) Wound of the liver.--Wounded at Tweefontein. Entry, in eighth intercostal space in right mid axillary line; exit, 1-1/2 inch below the point of the ensiform cartilage, 1/2 an inch to the right of the mid line. The wounds were large, and although the impact had been oblique, they were possibly produced by a Martini-Henry or Guedes bullet.
On the second day bile began to escape from the exit aperture, and this together with a little pus continued to be discharged for a week, when the wound rapidly healed up. The only symptom which occasioned any trouble was a stitch on inspiration, probably attributable to the wound of the diaphragm. There was no fracture of the rib.
(208) Wound of the liver.--Wounded outside Heilbron at a range of fifty yards. Entry (Mauser), in the tenth right interspace 2 inches to the right of the dorsal spines; exit, through the gladiolus, immediately to the right of the median line, and just above the junction with the ensiform cartilage. There was considerable shock on reception of the injury, and a great feeling of dizziness. Continuous vomiting set in and persisted for the first two days, then became occasional, and ceased only at the end of a week. There was also occasional hiccough, and stitch on drawing a long breath. The respiration was shallow and rapid. The bowels acted twice shortly after the injury.
The pulse was rapid and small, and a week after the injury was still above 100. The abdomen was then normal and moving symmetrically, and the respiration fairly easy. There were no signs of chest trouble, but some mucous expectoration. A slight icteric tinge existed. The patient made a good recovery.
Wounds of the spleen.--Uncomplicated wounds of the spleen were necessarily rare, and beyond this the strict localisation of a track to the spleen is not a matter of great ease. None the less the spleen must have been implicated in a considerable number of the wounds crossing the chest and abdomen. I know of only one case in which a wound which crossed the splenic area caused death from hæmorrhage, and of this I can give no details, as I never saw the patient. In this instance, however, a wound of the spleen was diagnosed after death from the position of the wounds. The patient continued to perform his duty as an officer in the fighting line for at least an hour after being struck, and then died rapidly apparently from an internal hæmorrhage.
In case No. 201, included amongst the renal injuries, a wound of the spleen existed, but had given rise to no symptoms, and at the time of death, some three weeks later, was cicatrised. The only other assertion of importance that I can make is, that, as far as I could judge, wounds of the spleen from bullets of small calibre were not, as a rule, accompanied by hæmorrhage, since I never saw a case in which dulness in the left flank suggested the presence of extravasated blood, and in no case that I saw was there any history of general symptoms pointing to the loss of blood.
This is only to be explained by our similar experience with regard to wounds of the liver unaccompanied by puncture of main vessels, and perhaps hæmorrhage is still less to be expected in the case of the spleen, in consequence of the contractile muscular tunic with which the organ is provided.
I can quote no case of certain injury to the spleen, except that already referred to discovered at a post-mortem examination, but many wounds were observed in positions of which the following may be taken as a type. Entry, through the seventh left costal cartilage, 3/4 of an inch from the sternal margin; exit, 2-1/2 inches from the left lumbar spines at the level of the last rib.
As an instance of the doctrine of chances I might quote the position of the wound in the patient who lay in the next bed. Both patients were wounded while fighting at Almonds Nek. Entry, through right seventh costal cartilage, 3/4 of an inch from the sternal margin; exit, 1-1/2 inch from the lumbar spines, at the level of the last right rib.
In neither of these cases did anything except the position of the external apertures point to the infliction of visceral injury.
General remarks as to the prognosis in abdominal injuries. The prognosis in each form of individual visceral injury has been already considered, but a few points affecting these injuries as a class should perhaps be further considered.
First, as to the influence of range on the severity of the injuries inflicted; I am not able to confirm the greater danger of short range, except in so far as there is no doubt that more shock attends such injuries, and possibly some of the most severely wounded were killed outright as a direct consequence of the greater striking force of the bullet.
Among the cases in which but slight effects were noted, however, many were said to have been hit within a range of 200 yards, as for instance the two injuries quoted under the heading of wounds of the spleen.
I personally saw no cases in which explosive injuries of the solid viscera were to be ascribed to this cause.
Secondly, as to the immediate prognosis in all abdominal injuries, the ensurance of rest and limitation as far as possible of transport were of the highest importance, either in the case of wound of the alimentary canal, or in wounds of the solid viscera in which hæmorrhage was a possible result.
Thirdly, as to the later prognosis in these injuries; very few men are fit to resume active service without a prolonged period of rest. In spite of the insignificance of the primary symptoms, or of the favourable course taken by the injuries, active exertion was almost always followed for some months by the appearance of vague pains and occasionally by indications of recurrent peritoneal symptoms, pointing to the disturbance of quiescent hæmorrhages, or of adhesions. Wounds of the kidney are apparently those least liable to be followed by trouble.
Lastly, the prognosis was influenced in the case of many of the viscera by coexisting injury to other organs or parts.
For instance, at least thirty per cent. of the abdominal wounds were complicated by wound of the thorax; and in the lower segment of the abdomen injury to the extra-peritoneal portions of the pelvic organs was common.
Both the immediate and ultimate prognosis were influenced greatly by this fact.
As to the individual injuries:
1. Wounds in the intestinal area, except in certain directions, often traverse the abdomen without inflicting a perforating injury on the bowel.
2. If the alimentary canal is perforated, injuries in certain segments, even if perforating, may be followed by spontaneous recovery. I should say the prognosis from this point of view is best in the ascending colon, then in the rectum; after these most favourable segments, I should place the others in the following order: stomach, sigmoid flexure, descending colon. As to perforating wounds of the transverse colon and small intestine, I believe spontaneous recovery to be very rare.
3. Wounds of the solid viscera generally, usually heal spontaneously, and give no trouble unless one of the great vessels has been injured. I include in this category all organs except the pancreas, of wounds of which I had no experience.
4. Wounds of the bladder, if of the nature of pure perforations in the intra-peritoneal segment, often heal spontaneously.
5. As a rule, injuries to the organs in their intra-peritoneal course have a far better prognosis than those which implicate the organs in their uncovered portions.
6. The small calibre of the bullet is alone responsible for the favourable results observed.
7. The danger or otherwise of an intestinal injury depends mainly on mechanical conditions; for instance, the fixity of the ascending colon, and its comparative freedom from a covering of small intestine capable by movement of diffusing any infective material, account chiefly for such favourable results as are seen when that segment of the bowel is implicated.
WOUNDS OF THE EXTERNAL GENITAL ORGANS
Wounds of the scrotum were not uncommon, especially in connection with perforations of the upper part of the thigh. They offered no special feature, beyond the common tendency of every-day experience to the development of extensive ecchymosis.
Wounds of the testicles I saw on several occasions. I remember only one out of some half-dozen in which castration became necessary. I was told of one case, for the accuracy of which I cannot vouch, in which destruction of one testicle was followed by an attack of melancholia, culminating in the suicide of the patient.
Wounds of the penis also occurred, but as a rule were unimportant. I append a case, however; in which the penile urethra was wounded, which is of some interest.
(209) Wounded at Heilbron. Range 1,500 yards. Entry, 2-1/2 inches below the right anterior superior iliac spine; the bullet traversed the groin superficially in the line of Poupart's ligament, emerged, and crossed both penis and scrotum. The trooper was in the saddle when struck, and the penis probably somewhat coiled up. Three wounds were found, one at the junction of the penis and scrotum which opened the urethra, a second one about 3/4 of an inch along the under surface of the penis, and a third on the left side of the base of the prepuce. A considerable amount of oedema and ecchymosis of the scrotum developed, but no extravasation of urine. A catheter was kept in the urethra for some days, and the opening eventually closed by granulation.
I only once saw a patient with an injury to the deep urethra; in this case concurrent injury to other pelvic organs led to death on the third day. As a good many of the patients with pelvic wounds died rapidly, the accident may have been more common than my experience would suggest.
 British Med. Journal, May 12, 1900, i. 1195.
 'On Traumatic Rupture of the Colon.' Annals of Surgery, vol. xxx. 1899, p. 137.
 Two of these died.
 The cases of injury to the solid viscera are those only which happen to be quoted in the text, and give no idea of relative mortality.
 British Medical Journal, May 12, 1900, vol. i. p. 1194.