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5 Missiles too, which have entered the body and become fixed within, are often very troublesome to extract. And some of the difficulties arise from their shape, some owing to the positions to which they have penetrated. Whatever the missile may be, it is extracted, either by the wound of entry, or through the spot towards which it is pointing. In the former case, the missile has already made a way for its withdrawal; in the latter the way out is made with the scalpel; for the flesh is cut through upon its point. But if the missile is not deeply seated, and lies in superficial tissue, or if it is certain that it has not crossed the line of large blood vessels or sinews, there is nothing better than to pull it out by the way it entered. But if the distance it has to be withdrawn is greater than that which remains to be forced through, or if it has crossed the line of blood vessels and sinews, it is more convenient to lay open the rest of its course and so draw it out. For it will be more easily got at and more safely pulled out. And in the case of one of the larger limbs, if the point has passed beyond the middle, a through and through wound[p. 317] heals more easily because it can be dressed with a medicament at both ends. But if the missile is to be drawn back, the wound should be enlarged with a scalpel, for then the missile comes away more easily, also less inflammation is caused; for this becomes more severe if the missile itself lacerates the tissues while being withdrawn. So also when a counter opening is made, this ought to be too wide for the missile to fill as it is passing out. In either case, the greatest care should be taken that no vein, nor one of the larger sinews, nor an artery, is cut. When any one of these is observed, it is to be caught by a blunt hook and held away from the scalpel. Than the incision has been made large enough, the missile is to be drawn out, proceeding in the same way, and taking the same care, lest that which is being extracted should injure one of those structures which I have said are to be protected.

The foregoing are general rules; there are some rules which apply to special missiles, and these I will at once set out. Nothing penetrates so easy into the body as an arrow, and it also becomes very deeply fixed. And this happens both because it is propelled with great force and because it is sharply pointed. Hence it is more often to be extracted through a counter opening than through the wound of entry, and especially so because it is generally furnished with barbs which lacerate more when drawn backwards than if pushed through a counter opening. When a passage out has been laid open, the flesh ought to be stretched apart by an instrument like a Greek letter; next when the point has come into view, if the shaft is still attached, it is to be pushed on until the point can be seized from[p. 319] the counter opening and drawn out: if the shaft has already become detached, and only the arrowhead is within, the point should be seized by the fingers or by forceps, and so drawn out. Nor is the method of extraction different when it is preferred to withdraw the arrow by the wound of entry; the wound having been enlarged, either the shaft, if it is still attached, or, if not, the arrowhead itself, is pulled upon. When the barbs come into view, if they are short and fine, they should be nipped off on the spot by forceps, and the missile drawn out without them. If the barbs are too large and resistant for this, they must be covered by reed pens which have been split, and thus pulled out carefully so as not to tear the flesh. This is what is to be done in the case of arrows.

But if it is a broad weapon which has been embedded, it is not expedient to extract it through a counter opening, lest we add a second large wound to one already large. It is therefore to be pulled out by the aid of some such instrument as that which the Greeks call the Dioclean cyathiscus, because invented by Diocles, whom I have said already to have been among the greatest of the ancient medical men. The instrument consists of two iron or even copper blades, one blade has at each angle of its end a hook, turned downwards; the other blade has its sides turned up so that it forms a groove, also its end is turned up somewhat, and perforated by a hole. The latter blade is first passed up to the weapon, and then underneath it, until the point is reached, the blade is then rotated somewhat until the point becomes engaged in the perforation. After the point has entered the perforation, the[p. 321] hooks of the first mentioned blade are fitted by the aid of the fingers over the upturned end of the blade already passed, after which simultaneously the cyathiscus and the weapon are withdrawn.

There is a third kind of missile which at times has to be extracted such as a lead ball, or a pebble, or such like, which has penetrated the skin and become fixed within unbroken. In all such cases the wound should be laid open freely, and the retained object pulled out by forceps the way it entered. But some difficulty is added in the case of any injury in which a missile has become fixed in bone, or in a joint between the ends of two bones. When in a bone, the missile is swayed until the place which grips the point yields, after which it is extracted by the hand, or by forceps; this is the method also used in extracting teeth. In this way the missile nearly always comes out, but if it resists, it can be dislodged by striking it with some instrument. The last resort when it cannot be pulled out, is to bore into the bone with a trepan close by the missile, and from that hole to cut away the bone in the shape of the letter V, so that the lines of the letter which diverge to either side face the missile; after that it is necessarily loosened and easily removed. If the missile has forced its way actually into a joint between the ends of two bones, the limbs above and below are encircled by bandages or straps, by means of which they are pulled in opposite directions, so that the sinews are put on the stretch; the space between the ends of the bone is widened by these extensions, so that the missile is without difficulty withdrawn. In doing this care must be taken, as mentioned elsewhere, to avoid injury to a sinew, vein or artery[p. 323] while the weapon is being extracted by the same method which was described above.

But if the missile is also poisoned, after doing all the same things, even more promptly, if possible, in addition that treatment is to be applied which is given for one who has drunk poison, or has been bitten by a snake. The care of the wound itself after the extraction of the missile does not differ from that of a wound in which nothing has lodged and on which I have said enough elsewhere.

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load focus Introduction (Charles Victor Daremberg, 1891)
load focus Latin (Friedrich Marx, 1915)
load focus Latin (W. G. Spencer, 1971)
load focus Latin (Charles Victor Daremberg, 1891)
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