One of the most common questions that a plastic surgeon is asked is “when does a cut or laceration need stitches?”
It sounds rather straight forward, but it can be a little more complicated. The simplest way to answer this question is:
1- If its actively bleeding
2- If the wound edges are separated
3- If you can see underlying tissue bulging through the laceration
Most parents or patients have the benefit of technology and can send an email or text our practice for a quick assessment prior to rushing into the office.
What about the timing of repair? Generally, an open wound should be repaired within 24 hours of injury. If unable to see a plastic surgeon immediately a moist bandage with neosporin can be placed on the wound until the next day until appropriate closure is given. In our opinion we believe that all lacerations should be repaired by a qualified plastic surgeon due to the expertise and the delicate care of tissues. We believe that the wounds will heal better and therefore there will be less of a scar over time when repaired properly.
So again in answering the million dollar question of when does a cut need stitches? It really depends on a few factors. 1- Where is it located? On the face, generally speaking if it’s deep enough to see underlying flesh or is jagged, the wound will heal better with stitches. In areas of tension like the arms and legs and areas of joints it is always better to have a plastic surgeon take tension off the wound so it doesn’t turn into a widened or hypertrophic scar. Lastly on the hands, depending on the area of the hand it is always a good idea to have a plastic surgeon see and examine the hand and make sure that there is no associated tendon and/or nerve injury.
Many patients also inquire about glue versus stitches. Generally speaking in our practice we don’t glue lacerations unless they are minor “papercuts”. Placing deeper stitches to take tension off of a cut causes a much nicer straight-line scar. So general rule of thumb, if in doubt see your plastic surgeon and they will tell you if you need stitches.
1- Bypass the long emergency room wait times and added costs by calling your plastic surgeons office.
2- If you have a laceration on the face, call your plastic surgeon.
3- If your child has a laceration, call your plastic surgeon.
4- If you have a laceration and you are in the Emergency room, it is well within your rights to request a plastic surgeon.
5- Make sure you have our office number (310)853-5147 in the event of a minor emergency.