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Acute Wound Care


What is an acute wound?

A wound is an injury that causes a break in the skin. An acute wound can happen suddenly, last a short time, and may heal on its own.

What causes an acute wound?

  • An abrasion is a scrape caused when a rough surface rubs against the skin.
  • A laceration is a jagged wound caused by a hard blow to the skin.
  • A puncture wound is usually made by a sharp, round, and pointed object, such as a needle or nail.
  • An incision is a cut caused by an object with a sharp edge, such as a knife or broken glass.

What are the signs and symptoms of an acute wound?

  • A cut, tear, or gash in your skin
  • Bleeding, swelling, pain, or trouble moving the affected area
  • Dirt or foreign objects inside the wound
  • Milky, yellow, green, or brown pus in the wound
  • Red, tender, or warm area around the pus
  • Fever

How is an acute wound diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will ask about your injury. He will examine the injury and the area around it. He will check to see how deep the wound is and look for signs of infection. He may check how well you can move the injured body part. He will check to see if you are numb at your injury site or below it. You may have either of the following:

  • A wound culture is a test of fluid or tissue used to find the cause of your infection.
  • An x-ray is a picture of your bones and tissues in the wound area. Healthcare providers use the pictures to look for broken bones, injuries, or foreign objects such as glass or metal.

How is an acute wound treated?

Treatment will depend on how severe the wound is and where it is located. It may also depend on the length of time you have had the injury. You may need any of the following:

  • NSAIDs help decrease swelling and pain or fever. This medicine is available with or without a doctor's order. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people. If you take blood thinner medicine, always ask your healthcare provider if NSAIDs are safe for you. Always read the medicine label and follow directions.
  • Acetaminophen decreases pain and fever. It is available without a doctor's order. Ask how much to take and how often to take it. Follow directions. Acetaminophen can cause liver damage if not taken correctly.
  • Antibiotics may be given to prevent or treat an infection caused by bacteria.
  • A Td 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.
  • Wound care:
    • Cleansing is done with soap and water to wash away germs and decrease the risk of infection. Sterile water further cleans the wound. The cleaning is done under high pressure with a catheter tip and large syringe. A solution that kills germs may also be used.
    • Debridement is done to clean and remove objects, dirt, or dead tissues from the open wound. Healthcare providers may also drain the wound to clean out pus.
    • Closure of the wound is done with stitches, staples, skin adhesive, or other treatments. This may be done if the wound is wide or deep. Stitches may be needed if the wound is in an area that moves a lot, such as the hands, feet, and joints. Stitches may help to keep the wound from getting infected. They may also decrease the amount of scarring you have. Some wounds may heal better without stitches.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • You have muscle, joint, or body aches, sweating, or a fever.
  • You have increased swelling, redness, or bleeding in your wound.
  • Your skin is itchy, swollen, or you have a rash.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • You have pus or a foul odor coming from the wound.
  • You have sudden trouble breathing or chest pain.
  • Blood soaks through your bandage.

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.

Learn more about Acute Wound Care

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.