Stitches or a Band-Aid: A Next Step Guide

“Do I need stitches or a bandage?”

This is a common question many people ask when they need to treat a wound or cut. Knowing whether a cut or abrasion needs stitching may require the help of a healthcare provider. But there are a few rules and steps to consider based on the depth, location and size of the cut. Here’s a brief guide to knowing if a wound requires bandage or stitches.

1. How Deep Is the Cut?

If the cut passes through several layers of skin, it will require stitching to ensure the edges of the wound are close enough to enhance healing. This means you need to go to the clinic for stitches if you see anything besides skin, such as bits of fat or bone, deep inside the cut. Typically, a cut that has a depth greater than a quarter of an inch needs stitches.

2. How Long Is the Cut and Does It Close Easily?

Longer cuts have edges that move around a lot and end up looking crooked after they heal. Some end up with uneven areas of skin. If the opening of the wound gapes open, it may end up with ugly scar tissue. As a rule of thumb, make sure you get stitches for any wound that is more than three-quarters of an inch long.

3. Does the Cut Have Ragged or Clean Edges?

If you or your child have been cut by a kitchen knife, stitches most likely won't be needed. Why? The straight cuts made by the knife will heal without a scar. But an impact wound from a fall that pulled the skin apart and left ragged edges may not heal very well. The rough edges will have to be trimmed to create smooth edges before they’re stitched together. This will prevent bunching up while healing. It will also prevent the edges of the skin from dying off and creating a spot for germs to infect the wound.

4. Where Is the Wound Located?

If the wound is located near an important organ or can cause serious complications, you should seek instant medical care. This includes cuts on the face, hands or feet. Also, any deep cut that’s close to joints like the knee, ankle, elbow, wrist or hip needs to be stitched. Such wounds are very difficult to keep together because the movement at the joint will cause them to keep opening. They also expose the joint to infection, which can have very serious consequences — you’ll also need a tetanus shot.

5. Are You Concerned About Having a Scar After Healing?

If you’re not bothered about the way the surface of the skin looks after the wound heals, you may decide to keep treating your wound at home until it heals. Your body will fill the gaps between a poorly aligned wound with scar tissue. In this case, you may simply keep cleaning the wound and applying antibiotic ointment.

This guide is provided for informational purposes. To get the best answer to the question: "Does my cut need stitches or a bandage?", you should consult your doctor immediately.

At AllBetterCare, we offer top-rated medical treatment for people who need care for their cuts or wounds. You shouldn’t wait until you have an emergency or start to wonder whether a cut needs stitches, bandage or super glue.

Give us a call at 717-635-8292 or register online for a treatment time later. You can also walk into any of our locations and receive instant attention. We’ll attend to you promptly whether you have health insurance or not.