A little basic first aid, such as cleansing the wound, keeping it dry, and covering as necessary, is usually the only assistance your body needs for healing most minor cuts and abrasions. However, what classifies a wound as minor, and when should you see a doctor for stitches?
Our team at America First Urgent Care, with offices in Coppell, Bedford, and Mesquite, Texas, is happy to provide expert tips on deciding if your laceration needs a physician’s care that may include stitches.
The size of a laceration is crucial in determining whether stitches are necessary. Superficial cuts that only affect the top layers of the skin usually do not require stitches. However, if the cut penetrates underlying tissue layers, it requires attention.
First, to assess its depth, clean the wound gently with mild soap and water, pat it dry, and examine the injury under good lighting. If you notice that the cut extends deep into the skin, exposing yellowish tan (fat), deeply red (muscle), or white (bone) tissue, the laceration needs professional medical care.
Otherwise, any wound over ½ inch deep or 1 inch long may require suturing.
A clean, straight-edged cut is more likely to heal with basic wound care than a jagged or irregularly shaped cut.
If the edges of the cut are jagged or gaping, and you can’t easily bring them together, you may need stitches. Stitches may also be necessary if the cut is bleeding profusely and fails to stop after applying gentle pressure for 5-10 minutes.
Seek medical care for deep puncture wounds, human or animal bites, or lacerations and abrasions filled with dirt or other debris that you can’t easily rinse away. While these types of injuries may or may not need suturing, they are at high risk of infection.
Your America First Urgent Care provider may also recommend a tetanus booster if you’re due, prescription antibiotics, and additional observation in the case of animal bites.
The location of a cut also plays a significant role in determining whether stitches are needed.
For instance, cuts over joints, such as the knees, elbows, or knuckles, are subjected to frequent movement, making them more prone to reopening and delaying healing. These lacerations may also involve tendons or ligaments that need additional attention.
Additionally, cuts on the face, particularly those close to the eyes, nose, or mouth, often require stitches due to the potential for scarring and aesthetic concerns.
Prompt treatment is essential for preventing infection and achieving optimal healing.
We generally don’t recommend stitching wounds left open for more than 12 hours since bacteria can infiltrate the wound bed. Closing the laceration at that point gives bacteria a perfect environment to multiply. In this case, you may need advanced wound care to ensure healing.
Otherwise, if you're unsure whether your cut requires stitches, it's generally safer to seek medical advice rather than risk inadequate closure.
Here at America First Urgent Care, we offer outstanding urgent and acute care services and primary medical care for patients of any age. Give the office a call regarding laceration care or request information online.