There are cuts, and then there are lacerations. Knowing when to seek professional intervention for an injury can make the difference between a short healing time with no infection and a time-consuming and painful treatment and recovery.
What Is a Laceration?
Lacerations are wounds that involve the skin and sometimes underlying tissues and muscles being cut or torn. They can be minor, such as a shallow paper cut, or much more severe and deep, such as might occur with a kitchen knife or forceful contact with a sharp edge. A laceration can be jagged or straight and very short or long. Lacerations should not be confused with incisions, which are the purposeful cutting of the skin and tissues to perform surgery.
Types of Lacerations
There are multiple types of laceration wounds. Treatment will depend on the type of laceration and its severity.
Perhaps the most common, cut lacerations are caused by contact with sharp objects such as kitchen knives, saw blades or even paper.
These lacerations occur when the skin breaks open due to blunt force. They most typically happen over more bony areas such as elbows, cheekbones, eyebrows, and knees. These lacerations are common in young children — for instance, falling and hitting their forehead on the corner of a table can result in this type of injury.
Torn lacerations are the result of an object or surface being dragged over the skin and causing an uneven and crude cut, such as might occur if someone fell on a rocky path.
A crush laceration is caused by extreme pressure that results in bones beneath the surface breaking and emerging from the wound. These can occur in accidents on motorcycles or with heavy machinery or objects that can cause a great deal of force trauma.
Often the result of objects such as bullets or other projectiles entering the body, perforated lacerations tend to be deep and sometimes even exit the skin on the opposite side of the initial entry.
Common in car accidents, stretch lacerations are caused by the skin being overstretched and consequently tearing when it comes in contact with a fixed object.
Blast lacerations are more common in industrial settings where compounds or gases can cause explosions that result in the skin being torn.
A degloving injury is caused by the skin being torn or cut and then peeling away from the tissue, hence its namesake. These can happen in car accidents or other instances where great force causes the skin to break and be pulled away.
Although not technically a laceration, a puncture wound should be treated with the same consideration, if not as a more serious injury. Puncture wounds occur when a long, narrow object such as a stick enters the skin and often the underlying tissues and muscles. These injuries are particularly prone to infection as they are deep and narrow, making it difficult to properly remove any contaminants or potentially infectious bacteria.
How to Handle a Laceration
If blood is not spurting or pouring profusely from a laceration, it is advisable to run it under tepid water to help remove any debris or bacteria that may be lurking. Do this for about 30 seconds. Follow with a very mild liquid hand soap and rinse thoroughly. Antibacterial solutions such as chlorhexidine can be used to disinfect the area. Once cleansed, carefully dry the area around the wound with a clean towel or paper towels. Apply a topical antibiotic wound cream such as bacitracin and cover with a bandage. Repeat this process daily or any time the bandage becomes damp or soiled. It’s fine to allow the wound to “air out” for a few minutes each day before cleansing and redressing — just be sure that it does not come in contact with any surfaces.
In the case that a moderate amount of bleeding is occurring, apply a clean, dry towel to the area and exert moderate pressure. This will help slow the bleeding and give the wound time to clot. If the laceration has occurred on a hand or arm, continue to apply pressure and elevate the wound above the level of the heart to limit the amount of blood being supplied to the area. In these instances, seeking medical treatment as soon as possible is advisable.
For severe lacerations or those that are bleeding profusely, applying pressure and either calling emergency services or getting to the nearest urgent care is of the utmost importance.
When to Seek Treatment for a Laceration
Sometimes it’s obvious that a laceration requires treatment. For instance, a deep cut with a kitchen knife can be not only painful but expose a lot of tissue and produce a lot of bleeding. Others can be moderate — such as a slip with a chisel or a deeper-than-normal road rash from a bicycle fall. Here are some telltale signs that treatment should be sought for a laceration.
- The cut won’t stop bleeding. Even smaller cuts that refuse to quit bleeding should be seen. This can indicate that a small artery or vein was compromised or that a bleeding disorder might need to be ruled out.
- Bone is protruding from the skin.
- A large amount of tissue is exposed — this usually requires stitches.
- There is a foreign object lodged in the laceration.
- Extreme pain is accompanying the injury.
Finding a reliable urgent care for the treatment of a laceration can be difficult. Contact Gonzaba Urgent Care Center today to remove the guesswork and provide the top care for lacerations and other after-hours medical concerns!