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Soft Tissue Foreign Body

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Mar 5, 2023.


A soft tissue foreign body

is an object that is stuck under your skin. Examples of foreign bodies include wood splinters, thorns, slivers of metal or glass, and gravel.

Common signs and symptoms:

  • A hard lump under your skin
  • An open wound
  • Pain when you touch the injured area
  • Redness and swelling
  • Bruising or bleeding

Seek care immediately if:

  • Blood soaks through your bandage.
  • Your stitches come apart.
  • You see red streaks on the skin near your wound.
  • You have bleeding that does not stop after 10 minutes of holding firm, direct pressure over the wound.

Call your doctor if:

  • You have a fever.
  • Your wound is red, swollen, and draining pus.
  • You have new or worsening symptoms.
  • Your symptoms do not get better after treatment.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Treatment for a soft tissue foreign body:

A foreign body may dissolve or come out of your skin without treatment. It may take weeks or months for this to happen. You may need a tetanus shot to prevent infection. Tell your provider if you have had the tetanus vaccine or a tetanus booster within the last 5 years. Your provider may make a small incision and use tools to remove the foreign body. Your provider may flush your wound to prevent infection. You may need surgery if the foreign body cannot be found or removed through a small incision. You may also need any of the following:

  • Antibiotics help prevent a bacterial infection.
  • 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. Read the labels of all other medicines you are using to see if they also contain acetaminophen, or ask your doctor or pharmacist. Acetaminophen can cause liver damage if not taken correctly.
  • NSAIDs , such as ibuprofen, help decrease swelling, pain, and 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.
  • Prescription pain medicine may be given. Ask your healthcare provider how to take this medicine safely. Some prescription pain medicines contain acetaminophen. Do not take other medicines that contain acetaminophen without talking to your healthcare provider. Too much acetaminophen may cause liver damage. Prescription pain medicine may cause constipation. Ask your healthcare provider how to prevent or treat constipation.
  • Take your medicine as directed. Contact your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell your provider if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

Care for the wound

as directed to help prevent problems such as an infection. The following are general guidelines:

  • Apply firm, steady pressure for 5 to 10 minutes if your wound bleeds. Use a clean gauze or towel to apply pressure.
  • Keep your wound clean and dry. Your healthcare provider may tell you to leave the bandage in place for the first 48 hours. You may be told to change the bandage sooner if it gets wet or dirty. Then change the bandage as often as directed, and if it gets wet or dirty. If your wound is packed, remove and change the packing as directed. Cover the area with a bandage as directed.
  • When your provider says it is okay to bathe, carefully wash around the wound with soap and water. Let soap and water run over your wound. Do not scrub your wound. Dry the area and put on new, clean bandages as directed.

Manage your symptoms:

Your skin may feel stretched and sore after the foreign body is removed. This is normal and should get better within a few days. The following may prevent or help symptoms such as pain and swelling:

  • Elevate 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.

  • Apply ice on your wound for 15 to 20 minutes every hour or as directed. Use an ice pack, or put crushed ice in a plastic bag. Cover it with a towel before you apply it to your skin. Ice helps prevent tissue damage and decreases swelling and pain.

Follow up with your doctor as directed:

You may need to return in 48 hours to have your wound checked for infection. You may need x-ray, ultrasound, or CT pictures to make sure all of the foreign body has been removed. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

© Copyright Merative 2023 Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes.

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.

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