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Even tiny paper cuts hurt, and the larger the laceration the greater the risk for infection and slow healing. Other than cuts to the scalp or face, wounds requiring stitches should be treated within six hours of the injury. Dr. Alfredo Quinonez is an internal medicine physician at the Gaslamp Medical Center in San Diego, California, who has extensive experience in wound care. He welcomes walk-in patients for urgent care issues such as lacerations, whether you’re visiting from out of town or call San Diego home.
Whether a laceration requires suturing or not, you should seek medical care if the cut contains debris, was made with a dirty or rusty object, or is due to an animal or human bite. In these cases, Dr. Quinonez can anesthetize the area and deeply irrigate or cleanse the wound to remove dirt, rust, and other contaminates. You may also need a tetanus booster and further treatment with antibiotics.
Otherwise, it can be tricky without a medical examination to decide whether a cut needs medical care or not. The best approach may be “better safe than sorry.” Some signs that indicate your laceration needs medical attention include:
It’s also important to seek care for cuts on or across joints since these can damage nerves, tendons, or ligaments. If you cut yourself wading in the surf or walking on the beach, prompt medical attention is also necessary because shells or the remains of sea creatures may contain bacteria that can cause severe, even life-threatening illness.
Gaslamp Medical Center has a minor surgery unit for lacerations, and can apply stents for any bone fractures.
Call 911 if blood is spurting or pumping from the wound since this may indicate a severed artery and requires immediate, life-saving care.
Do not remove any object that’s firmly embedded in the wound. Leave it in place because it may actually be preventing significant blood loss.
If possible, cleanse the wound gently with tap water. Then apply direct pressure to the site using clean gauze or soft material such as a clean T-shirt to help stem the blood flow. On your way to the clinic, keep the area elevated above your heart when possible.
If he determines sutures are required and you agree to the procedure, Dr. Quinonez uses local anesthesia to numb the area and then proceeds with stitching the wound edges together. You’ll be given instructions on how to care for the laceration site and advised when to return for suture removal.