Sorry I didn’t answer immediately. I haven’t been checking the forums that much these days.
How long would the surgery be to remove them?
Honestly, we probably wouldn’t remove them at all. There really isn’t any good indication for removing bullets from lung tissue, unless the person develops lead poisoning later or some other complication during their hospital stay. Actually, only 15% of patients with gunshot wounds to anywhere in the chest require immediate surgery and that is most often due to bullets that hit the heart or major arteries. Even then, the primary purpose of the surgery is not to remove the bullet, but stop bleeding. Instead, emergency room doctor place a tube inside the chest at bedside that drains fluid and air from the chest cavity while the lungs heals around the bullet.
Once the surgery is done, how long would be the total recovery time to full health? How long would she need to stay in a hospital bed before being discharged to recover at home?
This is incredibly variable, but assuming the woman did not have surgery and has no complications during her hospital stay… I think she would be in the ICU for at least 5 days during the inflammation phase of wound healing and another 5 days on the wards. They could remove her chest tube either before she leaves the ICU or just after. Then she would go home with plans to follow up with her primary care doctor in 1-2 weeks. She would feel short of breath and be told by her doctor to avoid strenuous activity for at least 4-6 weeks, but she would still walk and go to work (as long as it’s not an active job). After about 3 months she will be at her new “baseline”, which may be perfectly normal or may cause lingering shortness of breath. I don’t think she will ever be an Olympic runner, but she will probably still be able to climb the stairs without problems. As she gets older, she may start to feel the effects more.
Would the lack of lung capacity caused by the wound create something similar to the debilitating effects of pneumonia (something, sadly, that I have experienced)?
Sort of? It depends on if we are talking about immediately after she’s shot or a couple weeks later. Immediately after getting shot, she wouldn’t look like a person with pneumonia, no. She might have a pneumothorax which will cause severe pain on inspiration, shortness of breath, gasping, fast breathing, fast heart rate, low blood pressure, and maybe even a flail chest. In the weeks after, she will probably still have localized pain, which is not like pneumonia where pain is uncommon and if it does occur it’s usually diffuse. She will also have shortness of breath, but no cough and no systemic symptoms meaning: fever, fatigue, malaise, etc.