A laceration is a cut that goes all the way through the skin. The cut can be small and cared for at home, or the cut can be large and need medical attention right away.
If the cut is large enough, it may need stitches or staples to close the wound and stop the bleeding.
It is important to take care of the injury site after the stiches or staples are applied. This will help prevent infection and allow the wound to heal properly.
How to Care for Stitches (Sutures)
Stitches are special threads that are sewed through the skin at the injury site to bring the wound together.
Keep the area dry for the first 48 hours after stitches have been placed.
Gently wash around the site with cool water with soap. Clean as close to the stitches as you can. Avoid washing or rubbing the stitches directly.
Dry the site with a clean paper towel. Avoid using the towel directly on the stitches.
If there was a bandage over the stitches, replace with a new clean bandage.
Keep bandages off the wound after 3 days, or unless otherwise directed. Allow the wound to be open to the air.
Keep the site clean and dry by washing it 1 - 2 times daily.
See your health care provider when it is time to remove the stitches. Your health care provider should have advised you about when to come back to get the stitches removed. If not, contact your health care provider.
How to Care for Staples
Staples are special medical tools to keep deep lacerations closed. The staples are made of special metal and are NOT the same as office staples.
Keep the area completely dry for the first 48 hours after staples are placed.
You can wash the area AROUND the staple site after the first 48 hours. Use soap and water.
Dry the area completely, dabbing around the staples.
Keep the area open to air. There is no need to place a bandage over the staples.
Clean the area around the staples daily.
Return to your health care provider when it is time to remove the staples. Your health care provider should have advised you about when to come back to get the stitches removed. If not, contact your health care provider.
Prevent the wound from re-opening by keeping activity to a minimum.
Make sure your hands are clean when you care for the wound.
If the laceration is on your scalp, it is okay to shampoo and wash, but be gentle and avoid excessive exposure to water.
Take proper care of your wound to prevent any further scarring.
Call your health care provider if you have any questions or concerns about how to care for stitches or staples at home.
You can take pain medicine, such as ibuprofen, as directed (found on medication label) for any pain at the wound site.
Make sure to follow up with your health care provider to make sure the wound healing properly.
When to Call the Doctor
Call your health care provider right away if:
There is any redness, pain, or yellow pus around the injury. This could mean there is an infection.
There is bleeding at the injury site that won’t stop after 10 minutes of direct pressure.
You have a fever greater than 100 oF.
There is pain at the site that will not go away even after taking pain medicine.
If the wound has split open or the stitches or staples have come out too soon.
Hochberg J, Meyer KM, Marion MD. Suture choice and other methods of skin closure. Surg Clin North Am. 2009 Jun;89(3):627-41.
Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director and Director of Didactic Curriculum, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.