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What is a Laceration and How is it Treated?

A laceration is also known as a cut or tear in the skin. A laceration can be superficial, meaning it’s shallow and is in the outer layer of the body affecting only the skin. Or it can be deep and extend under the skin and into the fatty tissue, muscle, tendon, nerve -- or even into a bone.

A laceration can occur from a wide variety of traumatic events, such as falls, accidents, sports-related injuries, kitchen accidents with knifes, breaking and shattering glass, or walking barefoot and hitting a hard, rough, or sharp object.

All lacerations need to be cleaned as soon as possible with soap and water, so wherever you are, the first step in first aid is to wash your wound as thoroughly as you can. If the wound is bleeding, you’ll want to apply pressure to help slow the amount of blood loss. It helps to hold the affected body part higher than the level of your heart.

If there’s a lot of bleeding, you may need medical attention right away. Severe, life-threatening lacerations are those that tear an artery and cause profuse bleeding. With this kind of laceration, call 911 immediately to get help from emergency first responders.But for less severe lacerations, come to Central Massachusetts Podiatry for expert treatment.

How will the podiatrist treat my laceration?

Once you arrive at our office, we’ll clean your wound using sterile saline (salt water) to irrigate the area, which removes any dirt and debris.

The next step in treatment of your laceration can vary depending on the size, depth, and location of the laceration.

If your laceration is superficial, you may only need an application of antibiotic ointment and a regular bandage, or a steri-strip type of bandage to hold the outer edges of your wound together for better healing.

If your laceration is deep, you’ll most likely need stitches, which keep the skin and other tissues in place so they can heal properly. The stitches hold together not only the top layer of skin, but also the deeper layers of the torn tissue.

You’ll be asked about any drug allergies you may have, then be given a local anesthetic prior to the stitches being placed. This will work to numb the area first, so you won’t feel pain when the doctor repairs your laceration.

If your wound is deep -- or ligaments, tendons, or nerves are cut -- it will most likely require a surgical repair by our podiatrist. For in-office surgery, an additional anesthetic may be given, with your consent, if the doctor feels it’s needed to help further reduce your pain for the surgery. It depends on your injury and the type and extent of surgery that’s necessary.

What does “tetanus status” mean?

If you have a laceration on your foot or ankle, we’ll ask you about your tetanus status, meaning, “When did you receive your last tetanus shot?” Tetanus is a bacteria that is in our environment. It can enter the body through breaks in the skin such as those that occur with a laceration or puncture wound. A tetanus infection can be deadly. The good news is, there is a vaccine for it.

Many times, children are kept on a regimented vaccine schedule by their pediatricians, although this may not always be the case with every child. But unlike children, most adults and their physicians don’t always stay on top of getting their routine vaccines.  

Adults need a tetanus booster vaccination every 10 years for protection against the bacteria. Even if you had a tetanus vaccine, but it was more than five years prior to your laceration injury, you’ll be advised to get one in our office. Also, if you’re not sure when you had your last tetanus shot, you’ll need to get one.

What are the after-care instructions for a laceration repair?

You’ll want to follow the instructions regarding how often you need to change your bandages. The doctor will tell you whether you’re allowed to get your wound wet, or if you need keep it dry and covered when hand washing and showering. Follow our instructions for any prescribed medications, too, such as pain relievers and antibiotics. You’ll also want to rest the injured area as per the doctor’s advice.

Make sure to come in for any scheduled follow-up appointments so your wound can be monitored for healing and checked for signs of infection.

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