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Laceration

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:

What is a laceration?

A laceration is an injury to the skin and the soft tissue underneath it. Lacerations happen when you are cut or hit by something. They can happen anywhere on the body.

What are the signs and symptoms of a laceration?

Lacerations can be many shapes and sizes. The open skin may look like a cut, tear, or gash. The wound may hurt, bleed, bruise, or swell. Lacerations in certain areas of the body, such as the scalp, may bleed a lot. Your wound may have edges that are close together or wide apart. You may have numbness around the wound. You may have decreased movement in an area below the wound.

How is a laceration diagnosed?

Tell your healthcare provider about how you got your laceration. He will examine your laceration and decide what treatment you need. You may need any of the following:

  • An x-ray, ultrasound, CT, or MRI may show foreign objects in the wound. Foreign objects include metal, gravel, and glass. The tests may also show damages to deeper tissues. You may be given contrast liquid to help the injured area show up better in the pictures. Tell the healthcare provider if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast liquid. Do not enter the MRI room with anything metal. Metal can cause serious injury. Tell the healthcare provider if you have any metal in or on your body.

How will my injury be treated?

Some lacerations will heal faster, depending on where they are on your body. It may take a laceration longer to heal if it is over a joint, such as your knee or elbow. You may need any of the following:

  • Pressure may be applied to stop any bleeding.
  • Wound cleaning may be needed to remove dirt or debris. This will decrease the chance of infection. Your healthcare provider may need to look in your laceration for foreign objects. He may give you medicine to numb the area and decrease pain. He may also give you medicine to help you relax.
  • Wound closure with stitches, staples, tissue glue, or medical strips may be needed. Your healthcare provider may need to give you medicine to numb the area and decrease pain. He may also give you medicine to help you relax. These may help the wound heal and prevent infection. Stitches may decrease the amount of scarring you have. Some lacerations may heal better without stitches.

  • Medicine to treat pain or prevent infection may be given. You may also be given a tetanus shot. Your healthcare provider will decide if you need a tetanus shot. Wounds at high risk for tetanus infection include wounds with dirt or saliva in them. You should get a tetanus shot within 72 hours of getting a laceration or wound. Tell your healthcare provider if you have had the tetanus vaccine or a booster within the last 5 years.
  • Surgery may be needed if your laceration needs a lot of cleaning or removal of foreign objects.

What are the risks of a laceration?

You may have a foreign object in your laceration, even after your healthcare provider has cleaned the wound. You may get an infection from your laceration. If you have a medical condition, such as diabetes, you have a higher risk of an infection. Your laceration may not heal properly and you may need surgery.

When should I seek care immediately?

  • You have heavy bleeding or bleeding that does not stop after 10 minutes of holding firm, direct pressure over the wound.
  • Your stitches come apart.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • You have a fever or chills.
  • Your laceration is red, warm, or swollen.
  • You have red streaks on your skin coming from your wound.
  • You have white or yellow drainage from the wound that smells bad.
  • You have pain that gets worse, even after treatment.

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.

© 2015 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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