A laceration is a wound that occurs when skin, tissue, and/or muscle is torn or cut open. Lacerations may be deep or shallow, long or short, and wide or narrow. Most lacerations are the result of the skin hitting an object, or an object hitting the skin with force. Laceration repair is the act of cleaning, preparing, and closing the wound.
Minor lacerations (shallow, small, not bleeding, and clean) may not require medical attention. Antibiotic ointment and a bandage may be all that is needed. However, most lacerations do require repair.
Cleaning and preparing a laceration for repair is crucial for preventing infection and reducing the appearance of scaring. Cleaning not only washes away dirt, but also removes the germs that could trigger infection. Cleaning is done in the same manner regardless of the technique that will be used for wound closure. Preparation is done to even out jagged edges so that scarring may be less noticeable. Preparation is done as needed.
Sutures are used for wounds that are deep, bleeding, have jagged edges, or have fat or muscle exposed. Iodine is applied to the wound edges, and to the skin surrounding the wound. A surgical drape may be positioned over the wound, and taped to the skin so it does not move around (keeps the area sterile).
If a laceration is deep and underlying tissue or muscle is also lacerated, stitches may be needed under the skin before the wound can be closed. This will rejoin muscle and tissue layers. The stitches used under the skin are absorbed by the body, and do not need to be removed.