Cuts and puncture wounds

Definition

A cut is a break or opening in the skin. It is also called a laceration. A cut may be deep, smooth, or jagged. It may be near the surface of the skin, or deeper. A deep cut can affect tendons, muscles, ligaments, nerves, blood vessels, or bone.

A puncture is a wound made by a pointed object such as a nail, knife, or sharp tooth. Puncture wounds often appear to be on the surface, but may extend into the deeper tissue layers.

Alternative Names

Wound - cut or puncture; Open wound; Laceration; Puncture wound

Symptoms

Symptoms include:

Infection may occur with some cuts and puncture wounds. The following are more likely to become infected:

First Aid

If the wound is bleeding severely, call your local emergency number, such as 911.

Minor cuts and puncture wounds can be treated at home. Prompt first aid can help prevent infection and thereby speed healing and reduce the amount of scarring.

Take the following steps:

FOR MINOR CUTS

FOR MINOR PUNCTURES

Do Not

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call 911 or your local emergency number if:

Call your health care provider right away if:

Prevention

Keep knives, scissors, sharp objects, firearms, and fragile items out of the reach of children. When children are old enough, teach them to how to use knives, scissors, and other tools safely.

Make sure you and your child are up to date on vaccinations. A tetanus vaccine is generally recommended every 10 years.

References

Ball JW, Dains JE, Flynn JA, Solomom BS, Stewart RW. Skin, hair, and nails. In: Ball JW, Dains JE, Flynn JA, Solomom BS, Stewart RW, eds. Seidel's Guide to Physical Examination. 9th ed. . St Louis, MO: Elsevier; 2019:chap 9.

Lammers RL, Aldy KN. Principles of wound management. In: Roberts JR, Custalow CB, Thomsen TW, eds. Roberts and Hedges' Clinical Procedures in Emergency Medicine and Acute Care. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 34.

Simon BC, Hern HG. Wound management principles. In: Walls RM, Hockberger RS, Gausche-Hill M, eds, eds. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 52.


Review Date: 11/13/2021
Reviewed By: Jesse Borke, MD, CPE, FAAEM, FACEP, Attending Physician at Kaiser Permanente, Orange County, CA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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