Hand Laceration with Possible Nerve Injury, Stitches or Skin Glue

Image of a hand with a laceration and a close-up cross section of the laceration that labels the fat, skin, and muscle.

A laceration is a cut. It's possible for a laceration to the hand to injure a nerve. This type of injury can cause numbness, loss of feeling, and weakness in the hand, finger, or thumb.

In some cases, a simple bruise or swelling around the nerve will cause numbness or tingling for a few days. After this, normal feeling and function return. If the feeling doesn’t return within 10 days, the nerve has likely been cut. In that case, a specialist will look at your injury. He or she will determine if a nerve repair would help. A nerve repair is a surgery that locates the ends of the nerve and sews them together. 

Your healthcare provider may close a deep cut with stitches or skin glue. He or she may use skin glue if your cut has smooth edges, is not gaping open, and is not infected. Skin glue is less painful than stitches. In some cases, your provider may stitch a lower layer of skin before putting on the skin glue. The skin glue closes the cut within a few minutes. It also provides a water-resistant cover. You won't need a bandage. Skin glue peels off on its own within 5 to 10 days. Don't pick at it and peel it off sooner. Most skin wounds heal within 10 days.

You may also need a tetanus shot. Your healthcare provider will give you this if you have no record of a shot, and the type of cut may lead to tetanus.

Home care

Your healthcare provider may prescribe an antibiotic cream or ointment. This is to help prevent infection. Follow all instructions for using this medicine. If you have pain, you can take pain medicine as advised by your provider.

General care

  • Follow your healthcare provider’s instructions on how to care for the cut.

  • Wash your hands with soap and water before and after caring for the cut. This is to help prevent infection.

  • Leave the original bandage in place for 24 hours. Replace it if it becomes wet or dirty. After 24 hours, change it once a day or as directed.

  • If skin glue was not used, clean the wound daily. First, remove the bandage. Then wash the area gently with soap and warm water, or as directed by your provider. Use a wet cotton swab to loosen and remove any blood or crust that forms. Don’t clean the wound with peroxide. After cleaning, put a thin layer of antibiotic ointment on the cut if advised. Then put on a new bandage.

  • If you have skin glue, don’t put liquid, ointment, or cream on the wound while the glue is in place. Don't do activities that cause heavy sweating. Protect the wound from sunlight. The glue should peel off within 5 to 10 days. If it has not fallen off after 10 days, you can take it off yourself. Put mineral oil or petroleum jelly on a cotton ball and gently rub the glue until it is removed.

  • Check your wound daily for signs of infection. An infection can occur even with correct care. Signs of infection include redness, warmth, increased pain, and thick fluid leaking from the cut.

  • Don’t scratch, rub, or pick at the area.

  • Protect the wound from prolonged sunshine or tanning lamps.

  • Don't soak the cut in water. This can delay healing. Shower or take sponge baths instead of tub baths. Don’t go swimming.

  • If the area gets wet, gently pat it dry with a clean cloth. Replace the wet bandage with a dry one.

Follow-up care

Follow up with your healthcare provider, or as advised. It's important for your healthcare provider to examine you again to find out if nerve function has recovered. If not, you may need a nerve repair. Your provider will take out the stitches within 7 to 14 days. If skin glue was used, it will fall off by itself in 5 to 10 days.

When to seek medical advice

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

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

  • Increasing pain in the wound

  • Redness, swelling, or pus coming from the wound

  • Stitches come apart or fall out before your next appointment

  • Surgical tape that falls off before seven days, or wound edges that reopen

  • Bleeding that is not controlled by direct pressure

  • New weakness or "dropping" of a finger or thumb

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