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Types of Cuts, Lacerations and Puncture Wounds

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Types of Cuts, Lacerations and Puncture Wounds

Every once in a while, people end up with cuts, lacerations or puncture wounds. The severity depends on the situation, and when they aren't crucial, the body can immediately repair itself over the next few days.

But in some instances, these injures are serious, and it’s best to take care of the wounds right away. Within a few hours, infections set in and will undoubtedly cause more problems later down the line if the skin is broken through or gaping and medical attention is not received.

So, how do you determine when a cut, laceration or puncture is severe? You can get a seemingly innocent cut, but how do you know when it’s superficial or extremely deep? And what if it’s excessively bleeding? How much blood loss is too much, and when should the wound stop bleeding?

These questions are crucial to ask yourself, ultimately helping you determine if and when you need medical treatment. Here are a few ways to determine whether your skin injury requires medical attention, including sutures or stitches to support the healing process:

Cuts by Sharp Objects

Deep cuts by an object can be very severe because most things have bacteria on them. When an object slices or enters the body, it can cause an infection from the bacteria, which can worsen the wound. Infections take a little time to develop. To know if you have an infection from a cut, pay attention to any signs of pain, swelling, tenderness around the wound, or the development of significant symptoms such as fever or nausea.

Visible Bone through Wounds/Laceration/Cut

Seeing one of your joints like bone or muscle is a big sign that you need immediate medical attention. Prolonged exposure can lead to infection, especially when exposed to foreign objects such as nails, blades or bites.

A Deep and Gaping Cut into Skin

If your cut is really deep, especially on specific areas of your body—such as your head or neck—you need medical attention due to the possibility of excessive and prolonged bleeding. If the cut is wide enough to the point where the edges cannot close, there’s a good chance you’ll need to receive stitches to help keep the wound closed while it heals. Wounds longer than 20 mm (0.75 in.) or deeper than 6.5 mm (0.25 in.) need stitches immediately.

Cut Directly Over Your Joint

When a cut is over a joint, it can be severe because there’s not as much skin, tissue or fat in the area preventing it from exposure. These cuts usually come from blunt objects, and they can cause swelling and tissue damage.

Of course, in some cases, cuts, lacerations or puncture wounds may not need treatment at an urgent care facility or emergency room. If your injury is minor, when the edge of your skin is tight and stays together, or there is no extreme bleeding, you can administer at-home care.

Once these more minor wounds heal, there may or may not be a scar left behind. Even if these cuts might not need stitches, there is still a chance for them to become infected, so it's essential to monitor the injury and seek treatment when needed.

Identifying the Type of Your Wound

Another great way to determine if you need care is by identifying the type of wound you have:

There are stark differences between a cut, laceration and a puncture wound. Assessing what you have can help you make the best decision for your medical treatment needs.


Cuts break open the skin and can cause some bleeding. Often referred to as a laceration, most individuals think of a cut as a superficial injury that typically heals on its own. Cuts can be smooth, deep or jagged. They can also be surface-level, such as a paper cut. A deep cut — generally wading in the direction of a laceration — can affect tendons, muscles, bones, ligaments, nerves, veins, or arteries.


A laceration is a type of cut that is often irregular or jagged. Softer body tissue is torn through by an object, usually leaving behind debris and bacteria. Lacerations tend to be deeper than cuts and are more likely to need a suture and stitches to heal properly.


Generally caused by a sharp, pointy object going directly into the body in a particular direction, a puncture wound does not usually bleed excessively and typically looks like it’s about to close up. Nails, teeth, tacks and other things are often the culprits of these wounds. Because these items are covered in bacteria, infections are commonplace and should be treated immediately.

ProMedica Toledo Hospital Emergency and Urgent Care is available with ER-trained physicians and quality care to meet patients' medical needs. The ER is open 24/7, and the urgent care clinic is open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. No appointments are needed for treatment.

ProMedica Toledo Hospital Emergency and Urgent Care is conveniently located at 1075 Medical Center Parkway, Maumee, OH 43537.