Stab Wound

A stab wound usually causes a small opening at the skin, but may go very deep. As a result, nerves, tendons, blood vessels, and organs can be injured. Your exam today did not show injury to any deep organs or tissues. But a deep injury may not always be found during the first exam. 

Depending on the type of wound, the skin opening may not be stitched closed. This is to reduce problems in the event of an infection.

Home care

These guidelines will help you care for your wound at home:

  • Keep the wound 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.

  • If the wound was left open or if stitches were used, clean the wound daily:

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

    • After cleaning, apply a thin layer of antibiotic ointment. This will keep the wound clean and make it easier to remove any stitches, if they were used. Reapply the bandage.

    • You may remove the bandage and shower as usual after the first 24 hours, but don't soak the area in water (no swimming) until any stitches or staples are removed.

  • If surgical tape was used, keep the area clean and dry. If it becomes wet, blot it dry with a towel.

  • If bleeding occurs from the wound, cover with a gauze or towel and apply firm direct pressure without letting go for 5 full minutes by the clock. This gives time for a clot to form. If this doesn't stop bleeding, return to the hospital promptly

Follow-up care

Most skin wounds heal within 10 days. But even with proper treatment, a wound infection may occur. Check the wound daily for signs of infection listed below. Return to have stitches or staples removed as instructed by your healthcare provider. If surgical tape closures were used, you may remove them yourself after 10 days if they have not fallen off on their own. Tell your doctor if you have numbness or weakness in the injured extremity that doesn't get better.

When to seek medical advice

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

  • Bleeding not controlled by direct pressure

  • Wound bleeding for longer than 24 hours

  • Signs of infection:

    • Increasing pain in the wound

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

    • Redness or swelling of the wound, or pus coming from the wound

  • Stitches or staples (if you have them) come apart or fall out before your next appointment

Call 911

For neck, chest, back, or abdomen wounds, call 911 if you have:

  • Shortness of breath

  • Painful breathing

  • Back or abdomen pain that gets worse

  • Blood in the stool or urine

  • Vomiting blood

  • Weakness, dizziness, or fainting

© 2000-2021 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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