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Can you really fix a bullet wound with nothing more than super glue, like in 'Poker Face'?
It's a lot to expect from the stuff you use to fix your action figures.
Peacock’s new mystery series, Poker Face, created by Rian Johnson and starring Natasha Lyonne (and streaming now!), follows a similar structure to Columbo. We, the audience, see the crime occur before zipping back in time to Charlie’s (Lyonne) first encounter with its perpetrators or its victims. By the time we reach the second episode, Charlie is carrying two important things. The first, a bullet wound, is making it increasingly difficult to deal with the second thing, a murderous pursuer.
Eventually, the effects of the wound prove too much to bear and Charlie loses consciousness. When she awakes, her bullet wound has been super glued together and appears to be more or less fixed. So, the question is: Can you really fix a bullet wound with nothing more than super glue?
While super glues aren’t advertised as first aid supplies, they wouldn’t be the first material to be used off label, and there are plenty of people who swear by it. When you have an injury, the big concerns are uncontrolled bleeding, infection, and scarring, all of which can be minimized or stopped altogether by effectively closing the wound. When injuries are small, most people rely on bandages to protect an injury long enough for it to heal. When injuries are larger, you might need stitches to effectively hold the tissues together while it heals. That’s where super glue ostensibly comes in. Using a liquid adhesive can, in some cases, be just as effective at closing a wound without the additional trauma of the stitches themselves. It’s also just easier for an untrained person to use.
If you don’t have ready access to needle, thread, and the skills to effectively sew yourself or someone else up, you might turn to super glue as an alternative means of holding a wound together. According to the Mayo Clinic, super glue can be an effective way of closing minor cuts, but isn’t recommended for deep or complex wounds.
Super glue has a long-standing relationship with medicine and has been used to close up injuries for decades, with varying results. According to Straight Dope, cyanoacrylates, the compounds which make up super glue, Krazy Glue, and similar products were invented in 1942 by Dr. Harry Coover, a scientist working for Kodak. At first, he wasn’t sure what utility, if any, they might have. He tried and failed to use his new materials for airplane canopies and gun sights, before figuring out they made incredibly strong adhesives.
Early on, people started wondering if these compounds might be useful in emergency situations, and various versions were tested on the battlefield during the Vietnam War. While they worked at slowing or stopping bleeding in at least some cases, they were also known to cause irritation when the glue reacted with water, and the polymerization process can generate enough heat to cause burns. With all of that in mind, super glue isn’t recommended for use on skin, and especially not for large wounds like the type you might get from a bullet passing through your body.
Fortunately, scientists have created specific cyanoacrylates designed for use on human tissue. These compounds, like the over the counter product Dermabond, provide the same or similar levels of adhesion without some or all of the negative side effects.
The bottom line is that if you’re dealing with a gunshot wound and you have access to professional medical care, you should lean on that, and fast. Gunshot wounds are complex injuries which can require specialized care. You probably can’t fix your bullet hole with a surface level application of store-bought adhesive.
Our favorite brand of bullet hole binder is Avoiding-Situations-Where-We-Might-Get-Shot, but if that’s not available in your area, find a doctor who can save your life or, failing that, at least solve your murder. Poker Face is streaming on Peacock, right now!