What wounds require stitches


Cuts are traumatic injuries, i.e. accidental injuries, and are caused by sharp, cutting objects such as knives, broken glass or metal.

Short version:

  • The most important measure for wound injuries is hemostasis.
  • Then the wound is cleaned and the wound is treated with plasters or compresses.
  • A doctor should be consulted for larger, particularly deep or heavily contaminated wounds as well as insatiable bleeding.
  • Tetanus infection (tetanus) is a dangerous complication of cuts.

What are the characteristics of a cut?

In the case of a cut, the edges of the wound are smooth. The wound gapes and bleeds to a greater or lesser extent, depending on its size.

Depending on the extent of the injury in depth, larger blood vessels, nerves, muscles or tendons can also be affected; one then speaks of a complicated cut.

How do you properly treat a cut?

The most important immediate measure is hemostasis. For this purpose, a light pressure bandage should be applied and the affected part of the body should be elevated if possible. The bandage should only compress the underlying tissue slightly, but the blood flow should not be interrupted. Further care for the wound depends on the extent and severity of the injury.

Minor cuts

Once the bleeding has stopped, the wound must be carefully cleaned. For this purpose, it is ideally rinsed with sterile physiological saline solution, alternatively running tap water can also be used.

Octenidine or iodine solutions are suitable for subsequent disinfection.

Danger: Treatment with solutions containing alcohol is very painful and should be avoided.

As a wound dressing, sterile plasters or a sterile compress, which is attached to the wound with an adhesive plaster, are best used. Smaller wounds without infection are usually closed after about 24 hours.

Larger cuts

Larger cuts and the following circumstances require medical attention. These include:

  • Wounds with a size of more than 1 cm, as these usually have to be sutured
  • deep cuts that could damage nerves, muscles or tendons. Injuries of this type often require surgical treatment.
  • very heavy or unstoppable bleeding
  • contaminated wounds or injuries with contaminated objects, as in these cases there is an increased risk of infection

The wound should be closed after cleaning, disinfection and a thorough medical assessment of the injury. This is only possible with clean, germ-free wounds, otherwise there is a very high risk of infection.

Important: After a period of around six hours, every (even apparently clean) wound is considered to be heavily colonized by germs and can no longer be closed primarily. To ensure optimal wound care, a doctor's visit should therefore be made within this time window.

Various suturing techniques can be used to close wounds, usually under local anesthesia ("local anesthesia"). The sutures are removed after about ten days.

Alternatively, suture strips (Steristrips) or special skin adhesives can be used for superficial, small cuts.

What complications can arise?

In general, the type of injury, the degree of contamination of the wound and the type of first aid are decisive for wound healing and the risk of complications.

Tetanus infection (tetanus) is a dangerous complication. After each injury, the tetanus vaccination status should therefore be checked and, if protection is lacking, refreshed.

When should you see a doctor?

The wound and the surrounding area should be examined regularly in order to detect any infection at an early stage. Warning signs are:

  • Redness
  • swelling
  • Pain
  • overheat
  • Leakage of pus and excessive wound secretion

In these cases, a doctor must be consulted, and antibiotic therapy may be necessary. In the worst case, untreated infected wounds can lead to life-threatening blood poisoning (sepsis).

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Dr. Kerstin Lehermayr (first author), Tanja Unterberger, Bakk. phil. (2019)
Medical review:
OA Dr. Elisabeth Lahnsteiner
Editorial editing:
Dr. med. Christian Maté

Status of medical information:

Henne-Bruns D: surgery. Georg Thieme Verlag, Stuttgart, Duale series, 4th edition 2012

Probst W, Vasel-Biergans A: Wound Management - An Illustrated Guide for Doctors and Pharmacists. Scientific publishing company, Stuttgart, 2nd edition 2010

Voggenreiter G, Dold C: Wound therapy - assessing wounds professionally and treating them successfully. Georg Thieme Verlag, Stuttgart, 2nd revised edition 2009, chap. 9 "Acute wounds"

Blank I: wound care and dressing changes. Verlag W. Kohlhammer, Stuttgart-Berlin-Cologne, 1st edition 2001