Critical Cuts: Urgent Care Guidelines for Stitches

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Critical Cuts: Urgent Care Guidelines for Stitches

Cuts can happen quickly, even when you are being careful. Most cuts and scrapes will heal independently with some care, but sometimes your cut may need medical attention to heal correctly.

Another word for a cut is a laceration. Other types of wounds that may require stitches include puncture wounds and incisions. You may also need stitches if you have a torn piece of skin like a flap, although these wounds do not always need stitches.

What Stitches Do

Although body has an amazing ability to heal many types of wounds sometimes, stitches may be needed to help the healing process. In some cases, stitches may be necessary to help you regain some or all of the function in the affected area.

When something breaks the skin, there is a possibility of developing an infection. More minor cuts and scrapes are easier to keep clean and are less likely to become infected. However, deeper cuts, punctures and tears expose more tissue to infectious bacteria. Stitches keep the wound closed, so less of it is revealed, and it can heal faster.

Deep cuts and punctures can also create scars as they heal. Stitches can reduce the size and appearance of the scar and result in less scar tissue.

Signs You May Need Stitches

Not all cuts and lacerations need stitches. Sometimes, it can be difficult to tell if your cut needs stitches. You should get immediate medical attention if:

  • The cut is the result of an animal or human bite
  • The cut is deep and over a joint or in an area that flexes often
  • You cannot gently close the wound, and it gapes open
  • The cut is more prolonged or deeper than half an inch
  • Your cut was from a foreign object impaling the tissue, especially if the object was rusty or dirty
  • It is bleeding uncontrollably
  • You have numbness in and around the cut

What to Do If You Have a Cut

If an animal or person bites you and breaks the skin, you should immediately get medical attention. Animal and human mouths can quickly introduce dangerous bacteria through broken skin. These wounds can also result in extensive scarring without stitches.

If you are not sure if your cut will need stitches, begin by performing first aid. Try gently cleaning your wound with water and mild or diluted antibacterial soap. You should avoid using hydrogen peroxide on your injury at first because it can cause damage to the tissue.

Use a clean cloth or gauze to apply gentle pressure on the cut if bleeding. If the blood soaks through, you can add a clean cloth to the original. After the bleeding stops, you can apply a sterile gauze or bandage.

Elevate the cut if possible, to help slow bleeding and allow clots to form.

Visit OU Health ER & Urgent Care When You Need Immediate Medical Care for a Laceration

At OU Health ER & Urgent Care, you'll find both ER and urgent care services under one roof. When you're not sure if you need emergency care or urgent care, you don't need to decide. Just walk into an OU Health ER & Urgent Care location near you for the appropriate level of care.

Our combined emergency room and urgent care facilities come fully equipped to handle everything from allergies, colds, flu, sprains, cuts and scrapes to chest pain, appendicitis, complex fractures and more. An onsite laboratory, X-ray, ultrasound and CT scanning ensure you receive prompt, accurate diagnosis and the right level of care. Walk in any time for OU Health emergency (ER) services 24/7 or urgent care every day from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.