Cuts and Lacerations

This article examines the difference between a cut and a laceration, how to treat each one, and when to seek professional medical help for these injuries.


A cut is defined as a skin wound with separation of the connective tissue elements.  The wound is caused by a sharp object such as a knife or shard of glass.  A laceration implies a cut with a torn or jagged wound that is caused by a sharp object.  A deep cut or laceration can affect tendons, muscles, ligaments, nerves, blood vessels, or bone.  It can also become infected if it is not treated properly.  

How to Treat a Cut or Laceration

You should handle laceration treatment and cut treatments the same way.  When caring for a minor cut or laceration it is important to take these steps: 

  1. If you are not the victim wash your hands and put on gloves if they are available.  You should avoid getting another person’s blood on you whenever possible. 
  2. Stop the bleeding by applying direct pressure on the area and holding the injury above the level of the heart.  This decreases the amount of blood flow that comes to the wound making it easier to control the bleeding.  As a last resort, a tourniquet may be used.
  3. If you are unable to stop the blood flow the wound may need stitches.  
  4. If you are able to stop the blood flow, clean the area by washing it with soap and water.  Do not scrub the area.  If bleeding starts up again repeat step 2. 
  5. Disinfect by using hydrogen peroxide or alcohol. 
  6. Prevent infection by applying an antiseptic lotion or cream. 
  7. Apply butterfly closures as they will help to keep the wound clean and prevent scarring.  Put an adhesive bandage or gauze pad over the laceration to keep it sterile. 
  8. Change the dressing at least twice a day or whenever it gets soiled. 

When to Seek Medical Care

Depth of Wound

Some major cuts and lacerations may need a stitch or multiple depending on the severity.  If you are experiencing heavy bleeding that doesn’t stop after 5 to 10 minutes of direct pressure you should seek care.  Do not remove a bandage if you bleed through the wound, but place another bandage on top while you are waiting for medical attention. 

Loss of feeling 

If you are experiencing any loss of feeling or movement around a laceration or in an extremity you should contact your healthcare provider.  This could mean that there is a cut through a tendon or nerve.  


An infection is identified by redness and inflammation around the wound.  It can also be accompanied by a fever and yellowish pus coming from the cut.  An infection is more likely to occur when the wound is gotten from a bite or a dirty object.  Contact primary care at the first sign of infection. 


Tetanus is caused by a bacteria called Clostridium tetani that is found in soil, dust, and manure.  It affects the nervous system causing muscle spasms, locking of the jaw, difficulty swallowing and stiffness of the neck.  It can also lead to seizures when left untreated.  In 10 to 20 percent of people, untreated tetanus can cause death.  If you have not had a tetanus vaccination in the past ten years you should consult a doctor immediately.  

Previous Medical Conditions

If you have diabetes this means that you have decreased circulation resulting in loss of feeling in your arms and legs. Wounds take longer to heal.  They can become infected much easier so you should contact a medical professional anytime that skin injuries occur.  When you have other types of blood diseases that cause excessive bleeding you should seek medical attention immediately.        

At BASS Primary Care Walk-in Clinic, it's Your Health, Your Schedule.