Experiencing a wound like a cut can be stressful, especially if there is significant bleeding. So it is often a natural reaction to think that stitches will be required. In some cases, a cut will require sutures. In others, washing, bandaging, and caring for the wound at home is all that is required for it to heal on its own.
But how do you know whether urgent care or home care is the right approach? First, if you have any concerns about the injury, it is best to get medical advice. If you are on the fence, though, there are some criteria you can use to determine the right action to take.
How to Tell When Stitches Are Needed
If a cut has any of the characteristics below, you should see a doctor as soon as possible.
- It is deep enough that you can see yellow subcutaneous fatty tissue, muscle, bone, tendons, ligaments or other structures.
- It has jagged edges.
- It is a gaping wound that is wide enough that it is not easy to bring the edges together with light pressure.
- It is bleeding profusely and the flow continues after 15 minutes of applying pressure.
- It was made by a rusty or dirty object.
- It is near a joint.
- It was caused by a high-velocity projectile like a bullet or shrapnel from an explosion.
- It was caused by shattering glass that may have left shards in the wound.
- It is the result of an animal or human bite.
- It is on or near the genitals.
- It is on the face or another area where scarring is a concern.
- It is on hand, foot or limb that does not function properly following the injury.
If a cut has the features below, you may not need to seek treatment.
- It is shallow.
- It has smooth edges that come together easily.
- The bleeding stops soon after pressure is applied.
- The wound has cleaned up well and there is no risk that there is debris in it.
Whether you seek treatment for a cut or not, you should talk with your doctor if you develop a fever over 100 degrees or see red streaks in the skin near the wound.
Receiving and Caring for Stitches
If you need stitches, the area will be numbed with a local anesthetic, then thoroughly cleaned. The healthcare provider will examine the cut to ensure there are no foreign objects in it and may remove any dead skin around it. Then they will gently pull the edges of the wound together and use a needle and silk or nylon thread to close the cut.
When the procedure is complete, you will be given instructions on how to care for the wound until the stitches are removed. This will include how to clean and rebandage the area and may involve applying an antibacterial ointment. Depending on the type of wound, you may be instructed to keep the area dry between cleanings.
When the wound has healed to the point that the stitches are no longer needed (a period of days to weeks depending on the injury), your doctor will remove them. This is a quick and simple process in which you will probably only feel gentle tugging as the stitches are snipped and pulled out.
The More You Know…
Knowing how to assess a cut to determine the right course of action can make injuries less stressful. And understanding what it is like to get stitches, care for them and have them removed can help ensure that your treatment is effective and your healing is complete.
For cuts, lacerations, and wound repair, save your spot in line at one of Baptist Health’s Urgent Care locations throughout Kentucky and Southern Indiana.