Old Laceration: No Stitches

A laceration is a cut through the skin. This will usually require stitches if it's deep or wide open. However, if a laceration remains open for too long, the risk of infection increases. In your case, too much time has passed since the cut happened. The danger of infection from stitching it at this time is too high. That is why your wound was not stitched.

If the wound is spread open, it will heal by filling in from the bottom and sides. A wound that is not stitched may take 1 to 4 weeks to heal, depending on the size of the opening. You will probably have a visible scar. You can discuss revision of the scar with your healthcare provider at a later time.

Home care

These guidelines will help you care for your laceration at home.

  • The wound needs to be kept clean and dry. If a bandage was applied and it becomes wet or dirty, replace it. Otherwise, leave it in place for the first 24 hours, then change it once a day or as directed.

  • The healthcare provider may prescribe an antibiotic cream or ointment to prevent infection. 

  • If you are at high risk for infection, or the wound is very dirty, your provider may prescribe an oral antibiotic medicine to prevent infection. Don't stop using this medicine until you have finished it all even if you feel better, unless the provider tells you to stop.

  • The healthcare provider may also prescribe medicine for pain. Follow instructions for taking these medicines.

Clean the wound daily:

  • After removing any bandage, wash the area with soap and water. Use a wet cotton swab to loosen and remove any blood or crust that forms.

  • Talk with your healthcare provider before applying any antibiotic ointment to the wound. Reapply a fresh bandage.

  • Remove the bandage to shower as usual after the first 24 hours, but don't soak the area in water. This means no tub baths or swimming until the wound heals or your provider tells you it's OK.  Don't do activities that may reinjure your wound.

  • Check the wound daily for signs of infection listed below.

Follow-up care

Follow up with your healthcare provider, or as advised.

When to seek medical advice

Call your healthcare provider right away if any of these occur:

  • Wound bleeding not controlled by direct pressure

  • Signs of infection, including increasing pain in the wound, increasing wound redness or swelling, or pus or bad odor coming from the wound

  • Fever of 100.4°F (38.ºC) or higher, or as directed by your healthcare provider

  • Chills

  • Wound edges reopening

  • Changes in wound colors

  • Numbness around the wound 

  • Decreased movement around the injured area

© 2000-2022 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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