One of the questions we are often asked in the Emergency Room is “Do I need stitches?”. There are several things to look for when making the decision on whether or not an emergency room visited is needed.

First of all, be sure to wash out the wound right away. Tap water is perfectly OK to use. When the wound was sustained in a dirty environment such as working outside, it is especially important to clean out the wound as soon as possible. The longer you wait to do this, the more likely the wound will become infected. If the wound is bleeding, hold pressure with a clean cloth if possible. Keep pressure on the wound for 15 minutes, no peeking! If it is still bleeding after that time, ER evaluation is needed.

If the wound is more than about a quarter inch deep, or longer than about 3/4 of an inch, it may need to be stitched. Location of the wound is also important. Wounds on the hands, especially if they cross a joint, will likely need sutures. Facial lacerations often need to be closed because of cosmetic concerns.

Timing is also important. Do not wait if you think you need stitches. Most wounds heal better and are less likely to develop infection, if they are closed within 6-8 hours of injury. Crush injuries or cuts where a foreign body may be present are especially vulnerable to infection and need to be seen and treated promptly.

We sometimes use wound glue and sometimes use stitches. This depends on the location, depth and complexity of the wound. Jagged wounds usually need stitches, while simple linear wounds that do not cross a joint can often be closed with wound glue.

It is very important that if you have any doubt as to how your wound needs to be handled, please come and visit us at Hospitality Health ER. We are open 24/7 and will be happy to offer you a medical screening exam if you are unsure as to what to do. Our ER doctors and nurses have years of experience in dealing with wounds and we are happy to help.

Written by Pam Hall MD