Stitches or No Stitches? – How To Tell

Ok, so you’ve accidentally cut yourself, there’s a wound, it’s bleeding, and you are trying to decide if you need to go to urgent care/ER for stitches. But what if you don’t need them? Could you just use bandaids, butterfly steri strips, or some heavy gauze?

Here are a few ways to help you determine if you need stitches or not:

First things first: stop the bleeding. It’s hard to get a good look at a wound and determine the extent and nature of it while blood is clouding the picture. Hold direct pressure over the wound to try to stop the bleeding so you can get an accurate assessment of it.

Tip #1: If it won’t stop bleeding, that’s a pretty good indication you need stitches and/or a higher level of care than just a bandaid. Get to your nearest medical provider (or give Remedy a call!) for evaluation stat.

Tip #2: Look at the size of the wound: length/width/depth. The deeper and wider it is, the more likely it will need sutures to keep it closed. If you can see muscle tissue, fat tissue, or bone, you definitely will need sutures.  A long, but thin and superficial wound might also need stitches, but it may be less likely. The depth and width are of more concern here.

Tip #3: Location, location, location: Wounds on your forearm, face and the bottom of your foot are all different. For example, your forearm is relatively flat and doesn’t move across a joint surface much at all—so it doesn’t endure a lot of “bend stress.” A minor cut there may not need sutures if it’s not very deep. The surface skin of your elbow or bottom of your foot, however, is constantly bending, which means a laceration there is much more likely to need sutures because of the constant strain at that joint surface.

As for the face (and other sensitive regions), it can be prudent to get sutures so that it minimizes the scar formation. No matter where the wound may be, when it comes to location, ask yourself, “how much movement is this skin going to have, and how do I feel about scar formation in this location?”

Tip #4: Are there any important structures involved (genitals, face, hands)? Is the laceration near an orifice (mouth, nose, eyes, ears, anus, genitals)? Is it near a major artery or vein (carotid, subclavian, femoral, brachial, radial, popliteal)? If so, strongly consider going to a medical provider to get sutures. Anytime an important anatomical structure is involved, you want to consider sutures to protect that area from further harm.

As always, if there are any doubts, ALWAYS consult a medical provider about your laceration. And remember, Remedy’s mini-coopers are equipped with everything a standard urgent care would have or need. We’re well-prepared for stitches (for kids and adults) and have many options to suture your wound – and booking just takes a few minutes.