Topic Overview

It is important to determine if your wound needs to be closed by a
doctor. Your risk of infection increases the longer the wound
remains open. Most wounds that require closure should be stitched, stapled, or
closed with
skin adhesives (also called liquid stitches) within 6 to 8 hours after the
injury. Some wounds that require treatment can be closed as long as 24 hours
after the injury.

Wash the wound well and stop the bleeding, then pinch the sides of
the wound together. If the edges of the wound come together and it looks
better, you may want to consider seeing your doctor for treatment.
If treatment may be needed, do not use an antiseptic until after a doctor has examined the wound.

The location and type of wound also affects how soon it should be
treated.

  • Wounds that have an increased risk of infection,
    such as dirty cuts or crush injuries, are usually closed within 6 hours after
    the injury. Occasionally a wound that has an increased risk of infection will
    not be closed until after 24 hours, or may not be stitched at all, so that
    adequate cleaning and antibiotic treatment can be done initially to prevent
    infection.
  • A cut with a clean object, such as a clean kitchen knife,
    may be treated from 12 to 24 hours after the injury depending on the location
    of the cut.
  • A facial wound may be treated to reduce
    scarring.

Treatment by a doctor is more likely to be needed for:

  • Wounds that are more than
    0.25 in. (6.5 mm) deep, that
    have jagged edges, or that gape open.
  • Deep wounds that go down to
    the fat, muscle, bone, or other deep structures.
  • Deep wounds over a
    joint, especially if the wound opens when the joint is moved or if pulling the
    edges of the wound apart shows fat, muscle, bone, or joint
    structures.
  • Deep wounds on the hands or fingers.
  • Wounds
    on the face, lips, or any area where you are worried about scarring (for
    cosmetic reasons). Wounds on the eyelids often need treatment for both
    functional and cosmetic reasons.
  • Wounds longer than
    0.75 in. (20 mm) that are
    deeper than 0.25 in. (6.5 mm).
  • Wounds that continue to bleed after 15 minutes of
    direct pressure.

The types of wounds listed above usually need an evaluation by a
doctor but may not always need to be closed by a doctor.

Treatment by a doctor may not be needed for:

  • Wounds with smooth edges that stay together
    during normal movement of the affected body part.
  • Shallow wounds
    less than 0.25 in. (6.5 mm)
    deep and less than
    0.75 in. (20 mm)
    long.
  • Most puncture wounds.
    • The wounds tend to be smaller, and
      treatment does not speed healing or reduce scarring.
    • The wounds
      tend to be deeper, narrower, and harder to clean. Closing a puncture wound with
      stitches, staples, or skin adhesive may seal bacteria into it, which increases
      the risk of infection.
    • If a puncture wound becomes infected, it
      will usually drain better and heal faster if it is not closed with stitches,
      staples, or skin adhesive.

Related Information

Credits

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP – Emergency Medicine
Adam Husney, MD – Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer H. Michael O’Connor, MD – Emergency Medicine
Martin J. Gabica, MD – Family Medicine

Current as ofMarch 20, 2017