What is a Laceration?

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  • Written By: N. Madison
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 11 November 2018
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A laceration is a type of wound in which the skin is torn, often in an irregular shape. It differs from a puncture wound, which is usually made by a sharp object that causes the wound to extend straight down from the surface of the skin. Many lacerations are minor and can be treated at home. They are, however, prone to contamination from bacteria, dirt, and debris on the surface of the skin or on the object that caused the wound. In fact, if a person places his hand over the wound in response to pain, his hand may introduce bacteria into the cut.

When a laceration is minor, bleeding is usually minimal. There may be pain and discomfort from a minor laceration, but that is typically minimal as well. In most cases, a minor laceration is not associated with numbness in the area. This type of wound can easily become infected, however, and proper care is essential.

In many cases, a person who has a laceration can treat it at home. For example, if the wound only involves some of the layers of the skin and it is not bleeding excessively, he may be able to treat it at home. If, on the other hand, he can see bone, tendons, or other non-skin tissues through the laceration, he will probably need immediate medical attention. Likewise, if the wound bleeds excessively, he may do well to seek a doctor’s help right away.


To treat a laceration at home, a person usually cleans the site with water and soap. Using antibacterial soap may help prevent infection. Once the wound has been cleaned and the soap has been rinsed away, an individual may apply antibacterial ointment to it and cover it with a bandage. Each time he changes the bandage, which is usually only necessary if it gets dirty or becomes too wet to stay on, he’ll typically need to cleanse the wound again and use more antibacterial ointment.

After cleaning a laceration, an individual should remain alert for signs of infection. This may include drainage of pus or red streaks on the skin. In some cases, pain that seems excessive for the type of wound and stage of healing can be a sign of infection. Additionally, an individual may develop a fever, even a low-grade one, when he has an infection. If any of these signs appear, the injured person should contact his doctor right away.



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