Grimes & Fertitta, P.C.

Crashes and cuts: How lacerations can be life-threatening

Deep cuts and wounds, also known as lacerations, can be just as devastating as head injuries or spinal cord impacts. It's possible for victims to suffer lacerations from objects slicing across or through the body.

Some common causes of lacerations in car crashes are broken glass from windshields or windows, sharp edges of damaged metal and items that individuals have in their vehicles (debris). Even something as simple as a pencil can become a danger in a crash with enough force.

What should you know about lacerations?

The first thing to know is that minor lacerations are usually not a big deal. When it's only the skin involved, the body is typically able to recover on its own. However, if you have a full-thickness laceration, which is one that cuts into the subcutaneous tissues, muscles, organs or bones, you are in much worse shape.

With a significant laceration, you can expect several symptoms. These include:

  • Bleeding
  • Pain
  • Inflammation

Sometimes, lacerations open the skin enough for organs or internal muscles or tissues to literally fall out of the body. These are life-threatening injuries and have a high potential for infection.

How are lacerations treated?

Depending on the severity, the treatments could include simple washing and bandaging or result in a need for surgery. Healing usually begins once the wound is closed, typically with tissue tapes, sutures or skin adhesives. If a wound is infected, it's not going to be closed by medical providers in the majority of cases, unless not doing so would be more dangerous.

When a wound becomes infected, secondary healing (while allowing it to remain open) helps doctors monitor the injury as it closes on its own. Treatment primarily occurs through antibiotics and monitoring after the initial cleaning. Once the wound heals for around five to 10 days in a moist environment, the medical providers will examine it to determine if it is clean and healthy tissue that can now be closed. If so, then it is sutured shut.

It's typical for people with full-thickness or moderate lacerations to use antibiotics to prevent and treat infection. In addition, there may be sutures and additional tissue tapes to strengthen the wound as it heals.

People who have significant lacerations may take time to recover. There could be a great deal of blood loss and pain, both of which take a toll on those recovering. Patients should be cautious and rest as they recover through the initial stages of healing.

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