Bullet in the brain

Just as they had done during the Civil War, surgeons in the Spanish-American War recorded their handiwork with cameras. Physicians were also beginning to create images with a much more radical impact on medicine—the newly invented x-ray. The machine helped surgeons to find bullets without having to perform life-threatening exploratory surgery, and in some cases permitted them to avoid surgery altogether.

Image from The Face of Mercy – A Photographic History of Medicine at War  – The Burns Archive. (Image found at LiquidNight tumblr)

The case of Pvt. John Gretzer, Jr. is a prime example: his x-ray shows a bullet lodged deep inside his brain, the result of a battle wounded in the Philippines. After locating the bullet, and determining that infection had not set in, physicians opted for a conservative treatment consisting of changes in dressing only, and Gretzer survived with only mild brain disturbances.

Photograph from The Burns Archive, San Francisco, California, 1898 (x-rays were first discovered in 1895 and were used for medical purposes one year later)

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