Soft Tissue Foreign Body

What is a soft tissue foreign body?

A soft tissue foreign body is an object that is stuck in the soft tissue under your skin. Some examples are wood splinters, slivers of metal or glass, and gravel.

What are the signs and symptoms of a soft tissue foreign body?

  • Pain when you touch the injured area

  • Redness and swelling

  • Bruising or bleeding

  • An open wound

How is a soft tissue foreign body diagnosed?

Your caregiver may press on the edges of your wound to feel for the foreign object. He may need to feel around in your wound or make an incision to get to the foreign object. Your skin will be numbed with medicine before your caregiver explores your wound. Stitches may be used to close your wound. You may also need any of the following:

  • X-ray: This picture may show certain objects, such as metal, glass, and gravel.

  • CT scan: This test is also called a CAT scan. An x-ray machine uses a computer to take pictures of your wound. The pictures may show the foreign object and tissue damage. You may be given a dye before the pictures are taken to help caregivers see the pictures better. Tell the caregiver if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast dye.

  • MRI: This scan uses powerful magnets and a computer to take pictures of your wound. An MRI may show the foreign object and tissue damage. You may be given dye to help the pictures show up better. Tell the caregiver if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast dye. Do not enter the MRI room with anything metal. Metal can cause serious injury. Tell the caregiver if you have any metal in or on your body.

How is a soft tissue foreign body treated?

Your caregiver will decide if the foreign object should be removed. The decision will depend on how deep the foreign object is and if removal will cause more damage. Some foreign objects, such as splinters, can be removed easily. Other foreign objects may dissolve and absorb into your body, or may work their way out of your body at a later time.

  • Wound flush: Caregivers use saline (salt water) or germ-killing cleansers to wash out your wound. This helps remove dirt or other small objects and decreases your risk for infection.

  • Td vaccine: This vaccine is a booster shot used to help prevent diphtheria and tetanus. The Td booster may be given to adolescents and adults every 10 years or for certain wounds and injuries.

What are the risks of a soft tissue foreign body?

You may have a reaction to the foreign object. A reaction is when the foreign object irritates the soft tissue. Some foreign objects, such as plant thorns, are more likely to cause a reaction. You may develop an infection. Your foreign object may damage nearby tissue right after your injury, or when it works its way out of your body. Over time, a foreign body that is left in may travel to a different area of the body. This can damage blood vessels or organs.

How can I manage my symptoms?

  • Elevate: Raise the injured area above the level of your heart as often as you can. This will help decrease swelling and pain. Prop the injured area on pillows or blankets to keep it elevated comfortably.

  • Decrease your risk for a scar: Rub lotion or ointment on your skin after it heals. Apply sunscreen to your healed wound if you are out in the sun. The area may turn a different color if it is exposed to sunlight. Do this for at least 1 year after your injury.

  • Care for your wound as directed: Keep your wound clean and dry. When you are allowed to bathe the area, carefully wash the wound with soap and water. Dry the area and put on new, clean bandages as directed. Change your bandages when they get wet or dirty.

When should I contact my caregiver?

Contact your caregiver if:

  • You have a fever.

  • Your wound is red, swollen, and draining pus.

  • You have pain that does not go away or gets worse.

  • The skin around your wound feels numb.

  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

When should I seek immediate care?

Seek care immediately or call 911 if:

  • Blood soaks through your bandage.

  • You see red streaks on your skin coming from your wound.

  • You have bleeding that does not stop after 10 minutes of holding firm, direct pressure over the wound.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© 2014 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

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