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Cuts and Lacerations

Cuts and lacerations are common injuries, usually resulting from accidents. Effectively managing these wounds can help prevent infections,
long-term damage and even fatalities.

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What are cuts and lacerations?

A cut is a break or opening in the skin. It is also called a laceration. A cut may be deep, smooth or jagged. It may be near the surface of the skin, or deeper. 
A deep cut can affect tendons, muscles, ligaments, nerves, blood vessels or bone.

Ranging from minor inconveniences to life-threatening emergencies, knowing when and where to seek treatment for cuts and lacerations is essential.

How do you treat cuts and lacerations?

Treatments for cuts and lacerations can include stitches, ointments, antibiotics and bandages and dressings.

“If you're ever unsure whether a cut or laceration requires medical attention, it's better to err on the side of caution,” says Dr. Robert Biernbaum, Chief Medical Officer at WellNow Urgent Care. “You don’t want that wound getting infected or causing you long-term problems. Our healthcare providers will make sure your injury is treated properly so it can heal well.”

What should you do if a laceration is bleeding heavily?

If a severe laceration is bleeding heavily, it's important to control the bleeding and seek immediate medical attention. Here's what you should do:

If the bleeding is severe, call for emergency medical attention.

Using a clean cloth, gauze pad or your hand, apply firm and direct pressure to the wound to help control bleeding. Maintain pressure continuously and elevate the wound if possible.

Don’t put pressure on an eye injury, embedded object or on the head if there may be a skull fracture.

If bleeding doesn’t stop, add more bandages on top of the first one if it soaks through. Continue to apply pressure.

If you are assisting someone with a heavily bleeding wound, stay with them while you wait for medical help to arrive. Help them sit or lay down in a comfortable position, elevating the wound if possible.

To learn more about first aid treatment for severe bleeding, see this article from Harvard Health.

Can a cut or laceration lead to long-term damage or disability?

In some cases, a cut or laceration can lead to long-term damage or disability. Here are some potential complications:

Even with proper wound care and treatment, cuts or lacerations can result in noticeable scars. Scars may cause cosmetic concerns or affect mobility 
if they form over joints or other areas of movement.

Injuries to certain areas of the body (such as the hands, feet or face) can lead to a loss of function or decreased range of motion.

If a cut or laceration becomes infected and is not promptly treated, it can lead to serious complications such as tissue damage, abscess formation 
or the spread of infection to other parts of the body. In some cases, untreated infections can lead to systemic illness or sepsis, which can be life-threatening.

Cuts or lacerations that injure nerves can result in long-term sensory or motor deficits, such as numbness, tingling, weakness, loss of sensation, or chronic pain.

Damage to tendons or ligaments caused by cuts or lacerations can impair joint stability and function. In some cases, surgery may be necessary.

Severe injuries, particularly those resulting in disfigurement or functional impairment, can have psychological effects. This can include anxiety, depression or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

When is a cut or laceration an emergency?

Get immediate medical attention if you have severe bleeding, deep or gaping wounds, large embedded foreign objects, an amputation, a wound over a joint or on the eyeball or if it’s hard to control the bleeding.

Cut and Laceration FAQs

If the foreign object is large, deeply embedded or difficult to remove, don’t try to pull it out yourself. Attempting to remove the object could worsen the bleeding or cause further injury. Instead, get professional medical treatment for foreign body removal.

Small foreign objects like slivers can usually be removed on your own with clean tweezers. If you’re uncertain that you can remove the foreign object without causing further injury, it’s best to seek medical advice.

Signs of infection in a wound can include:

  • Swelling

  • Warmth

  • Pus or discharge

  • Foul odor

  • Slow healing

  • Increasing redness

  • Worsening pain or tenderness

  • Fevers

  • Chills or sweats

Infected wounds can result in serious complications. If your cut or laceration is infected, seek medical treatment.

It's not necessary to get a tetanus shot for every cut, but it is recommended in certain situations. If the wound is contaminated or it's been more than five years since your last tetanus shot, your healthcare provider will likely recommend another shot.

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When should you visit urgent care for cut and laceration treatment?

WellNow Urgent Care offers treatment for non-emergency cuts and lacerations. If your wound is severe, call 911.

For non-emergency wounds, WellNow Urgent Care offers prompt and thorough treatment. Our healthcare providers can help facilitate healing and prevent scarring, infection, and other complications.

For prompt, professional medical treatment of your injury, find your local urgent care center today.

This medical information has been reviewed for accuracy by Dr. Robert Biernbaum, Chief Medical Officer for WellNow Urgent Care.

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Injuries We Treat

WellNow Urgent Care can help when you or a family member is hurt. Our dedicated medical team will provide prompt, comprehensive and compassionate care to help you get better, faster.

This list contains are most frequently treated injuries. If you are experiencing pain from an injury not listed or are unsure of the source of your discomfort, visit a WellNow Urgent Care clinic near you or start a virtual care session.

A - E

Abrasions (Scrapes)
Abscesses and Cysts
Animal Bites
Back Pain
Cuts and Lacerations
Eye Complaints