The type of injuries that David Ortiz suffered from being shot Sunday evening are very serious and possibly life-threatening, according to two Massachusetts trauma surgeons who based their comments on news reports of the attack.
“All gunshot wounds can be severe, especially gunshots to the abdomen,” said Dr. Peter A. Burke, chief of acute care and trauma surgery at Boston Medical Center. “A lot of organs were injured.”
The retired Red Sox player was shot in the back at a bar in the Dominican Republic. News reports said his colon, gall bladder, and liver sustained damage.
With such an injury, Ortiz could have died on the scene or bled to death afterward.
“The fact that he survived so far is good,” Burke said. “The downstream consequences will take time to play out. He’s made the first hurdle — he didn’t die.”
The biggest concern is the damage to the colon, said Dr. Horacio M. Hojman, chief of trauma surgery at Tufts Medical Center. When the colon breaks open, stool spills into the abdomen and can cause serious infections. Doctors can clean it out, and in Ortiz’s case they reportedly reconnected the colon.
But such a repair can leak, and leaks are often hard to detect for some time. “By the time you get there, the stool is all over the abdominal cavity,” risking a deadly infection, Hojman said.
Also, he said, “When you have those types of leakage, you cannot connect the ends of bowel again. You have to do a colostomy. It can be temporary.”
A colostomy is a procedure in which the colon is connected to a hole in the abdominal wall and stool is collected in a bag attached to the abdomen.
Additionally, based on the location of the injury, Hojman suspects that Ortiz also suffered damage to his right kidney, although news reports have not mentioned that.
As for the reported damage to the liver, Hojman said, that organ usually recovers well. The biggest risk is bleeding, which will occur at the moment of injury and can be difficult to control. He suspects that bleeding was a problem, because the surgery reportedly took six hours, longer than it would normally take to reconnect the bowel.
“We will not know probably for a week or two which way things go,” Hojman said. The fact that Ortiz is an athlete in good physical shape will work in his favor. “At the end of the day his body needs to do the healing,” he added. “He probably can do that well.”