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Dr. Mark Hosko, MD, May 6 2022

What Is A Laceration Wound?

Lacerations: Definition, Diagnosis & Treatment

Lacerations are scary when they happen, especially if you do not know what to look for or how to handle a cut. Knowing what to look for and how to handle a laceration will help you to determine the correct form of treatment. Find out everything you need to know about lacerations to make the best decisions for you and your family.

What is a laceration wound?

A laceration wound refers to a skin wound without missing skin. Usually, lacerations are caused by sharp objects. These are one of the easiest medical conditions to diagnose and easy to treat. Lacerations form by tearing the soft body tissue, that is, the top layer or layers of skin. Furthermore, lacerations are irregular tear-like wounds often caused by blunt trauma. 

Puncture wounds break more than soft tissue. Lacerations can be deep, shallow, long, short, wide, and even narrow. Minor lacerations do not usually require medical assistance as they can be treated at home with proper cleaning, ointments, and bandages. Also, minor lacerations will not bleed as much as deep lacerations. 

Deeper lacerations may require stitches if they are deep, bleeding profusely, have jagged edges, or expose muscle or fat. Seek medical attention for deep lacerations, especially cuts that will not stop bleeding. Often lacerations are misused as incisions that are caused on purpose or have clearly defined edges. 

What are the signs and symptoms of a laceration?

Lacerations are easy to spot as they refer to damage to the skin. As the skin has nerves, you will feel a sharp pain from a cut. Also, the cut skin will bleed and have a visible tear in the skin when the blood is out of the way. Often you will know when a laceration happens as it involves a cut or injury. The laceration victim will often scream in pain when the accident occurs, which is the first symptom of a cut. 

How do you describe a laceration?

Describe a laceration as a defined tear in the tissue of the skin caused by either shearing or crushing force. Often, lacerations are a result of blunt trauma. A laceration can also be described as an incomplete separation of strong tissue elements such as blood vessels or nerves. Lacerations can be caused by both sharp or dull trauma.

What is the difference between a cut and a laceration?

Cuts and lacerations are often used interchangeably as both indicate damaged skin from a blunt or sharp object. However, a cut often refers to a mild laceration as cuts do not often require more than antibacterial ointment and a bandage. Lacerations may be deeper and require pressure to stop the bleeding and even stitches depending on the depth of the injury or exposure of other parts like bone, tendons, ligaments, or muscle. 

How do you treat a wound laceration?

The first step to treat laceration is to stop the bleeding with pressure and gauze or bandage. Once the wound stops bleeding, clean the area to remove all dirt and debris. Clean by running cool water over the area and then use mild soap and water if possible. Dry with a sterile cloth. 

Next, apply antibiotic ointment and cover the wound with a sterile gauze bandage and medical tape. For smaller lacerations, use a self-sticking bandage for the wound. Clean and replace bandages daily until the wound heals. For smaller cuts, you may be able to use skin closure strips. Avoid using liquid bandages for cuts without consulting a doctor first. 

For deeper lacerations, go to the doctors for stitches. If you can see anything other than the first layer of skin, you also need to go to the doctor for proper treatment. If a cut measures larger than half an inch or has a large gaping wound, it probably requires stitches. 

Moreover, the location of a wound may require stitches to stay shut, such as on a joint, face, near the eye, or in the genital area. Another indication that a laceration requires medical attention is a risk of infection or disease such as a rusty nail, a scratch or bite, or another potentially contaminated item. Finally, prolonged bleeding requires medical assistance. 

After a few days, even if treating a minor laceration, you need to look for signs of infections or complications. Look for fever, chills, redness, swelling, white or yellow pus or drainage from the wound, or worsening pain. Do not wait to see a doctor if any of these symptoms occur; seek medical attention quickly. 

Can a laceration heal without stitches?

Eventually, a laceration will heal on its own without stitches. However, stitches promote faster healing, keep the wound clean from bacteria and infection, and prevent scarring. Furthermore, stitches or staples can help to reduce blood loss and reduce future complications from the wound. Lacerations can sever toes or fingers, and these cannot heal well without stitches. 

How long does it take for a laceration to heal?

Depending on the wound, it can take up to three months for the wound to fully heal. If you require stitches, the wound can heal faster in about six to eight weeks. Minor cuts and lacerations can heal in as little as two weeks, especially if the cut is very small. 

The location of the wound can impact healing as well. If the injury is on your hand, foot, knee, or elbow, it may take longer to heal as the body part moves more often. Immobilizing and injury on these parts, while frustrating, can help the cut to heal faster. 

How can I make my laceration heal faster?

The best way to help a laceration heal faster is to take proper care of the wound. Furthermore, if the cut requires stitches, then get stitches. Most importantly, keep the wound clean to prevent infection and covered to keep out dirt and debris. Avoid an unhealthy diet and drink more water to help provide the nutrients you need to heal properly. Try to eat food rich in vitamin C and antioxidants to help heal quickly. Lastly, avoid smoking and drugs of any sort to give yourself the best chance of healing. 

How deep does a cut heal?

Lacerations heal in four stages. Stage one is stopping the bleeding, also called hemostasis. Adding pressure can help to stop blood flow as the blood clots to prevent blood loss and closes the wound by making a scab, which is stage two. At this stage, you may notice inflammation as well as that helps to heal. 

Stage three involves rebuilding or growth as oxygen-rich red blood cells move to the injury and create new tissue. The last stage is maturation or strengthening, where the wound clots and heals. At this stage, you may notice itching or tightness around pink or stretched skin. From here, the body will continue to heal until the wound is gone or left with a scar. Over time, even deep cuts will heal, but stitches will help to reduce healing time. 

How do you describe a deep laceration?

A deep laceration is a severe laceration. Describe a deep laceration by the size, size, shape, orientation, and margins. You could also describe a deep laceration as a gash as it implies a longer or deeper cut. Make sure to also describe if you can see bones, muscles, or other internal parts that should not be visible. 

What is a severe laceration?

Severe lacerations are those that require stitches, are infected, or will not stop bleeding. Deep lacerations that expose internal parts are also severe. They may extend through more layers of tissue and cause significant pain. Do not hesitate to go to a doctor for a severe laceration. While minor cuts can be cared for at home, deep or severe cuts require medical attention. 

Should I see a doctor for a laceration?

If, after applying pressure, the bleeding does not stop, then you need to see a doctor for a laceration. All severe lacerations require a doctor for treatment. Additionally, if you see signs of infection or if the laceration was caused by something that could cause infection, then seek medical attention. See a doctor also if the laceration is near the eye. Signs of shock warrant a visit to the doctors as well, including a weak pulse, clammy skin, or rapid breathing. 

Signs of the wound reopening require a visit to the doctors as well. Furthermore, look for new or unexpected symptoms such as spasms, rigidity in the muscles, or near the wound. All of these symptoms may indicate complications that require professional care. 

Why choose Portland Urgent Care for laceration treatment?

Portland Urgent Care  works with a multitude of insurance companies to serve more customers. We also use a variety of integrated medical resources by combining both western and eastern medical healthcare which allows us to serve you the way your body needs. 

We offer same-day and walk-in appointments for laceration for immediate care with the best doctors. Get a dedicated treatment plan to prevent infection and help lacerations heal quickly. From bandaging to stitches, we can do everything you need to help deal with the blood and pain to get you on the road to recovery. 


Mild lacerations can be treated at home with antibiotic cream and a bandage. Deeper or severe lacerations that will not stop the bleed run the risk of infection or that are deep require medical attention. When in doubt, stop by Portland Urgent Care and let us look over your wound and help decide the best form of treatment to ensure a quick and safe recovery.

For more information on injuries, see our related blogs:

Common Causes & Effects of Neck Injuries

Neck Injury Treatment

Types of Back Injuries

How Do You Know If Your Back Injury Is Serious?

Types of Ankle Injuries

Common Types & Causes of Knee Injuries

How To Treat & Recover From Knee Injuries

Wrist Ligament Injuries

Wrist Injuries Causes & Treatment

Difference Between Sprains vs Strains

Written by

Dr. Mark Hosko, MD

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