How do you know when a cut needs stitches?

October 5, 2021

Scrapes and cuts are part of everyday life, and most can be treated at home with over-the-counter supplies and medications. But require more specialized treatment.

 “If the cut is wide or gaping preventing you from putting the edges together or the cut continues to bleed after applying pressure for longer than 5 minutes, it’s time to seek the help of a medical professional,” said Texas MedClinic Chief Operating Officer and practicing physician Dr. David Gude.

You also need to seek medical help if your cut:

  • Looks deep or exposes the yellow subcutaneous fatty tissue
  • Is located on or near the face, lips, or neck where scarring may be of greater concern
  • Has an object sticking out of it or obvious debris in the wound

If a cut is spurting blood, there is a chance an artery may have been nicked. Cover the wound with a clean cloth, apply pressure, and seek immediate medical attention.

If your cut has a foreign object embedded in it—such as a stick or piece of metal—do not attempt to remove the object. There is a chance the object has struck an artery and is blocking blood flow, so it is important to leave it in place until you are in the presence of a doctor.

How to Care for Your Wound Once Stitches are In Place

Your attending physician will thoroughly clean your wound before closing it with sutures, but there is still a chance the cut can get infected.

While mild redness around a healing wound is normal, contact your doctor if you notice:

  • Significant redness, warmth, or swelling, which could indicate the wound is infected
  • Red streaks radiating from the wound out into healthy tissue
  • Cloudy or odorous discharge draining from the would
  • The edges of the wound begin to separate
  • You develop a fever
  • The sutures appear to be coming loose

Your doctor will tell you how long your sutures should remain in place and will remove them for you at the appropriate time.

Wounds That May Not Require Stitches but DO Require Medical Attention

There are times when even superficial wounds require medical care. Seek medical treatment if your wound:

  • Was caused as the result of a human or animal bite
  • Is full of debris or was caused by a contaminated or rusty object

If you haven’t had a tetanus shot in the last 10 years, your doctor will likely recommend you receive a booster.

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