Laceration: Definition, Types & Repair

Instructor: Danielle Haak

Danielle has a PhD in Natural Resource Sciences and a MSc in Biological Sciences

What is the difference between a laceration and a puncture wound? Wait, what is a laceration anyway? Read this lesson to learn what it is, the different types you can get, and how to repair them if you are unlucky enough to get one!

What is a Laceration?

Quite simply, a laceration is a tear in the soft tissue somewhere on the body. For example, you're walking along and unexpectedly scrape up against a nail sticking out of the wall, tearing open a small gash on your arm. This is a type of laceration (ouch!). A laceration is any cut or tear that is irregular or jagged, and it is characterized by the two sides tearing apart and opening up. This is in contrast to a puncture wound, which is usually a clean poke into the body that looks like it closes on its own. Another term for a laceration is a cut.

An example of a laceration on the leg
cut or laceration

Types of Lacerations

Lacerations come in a variety of types and seriousness. They are typically caused by a sharp object, such as a knife. (Have you ever been chopping onions and accidentally gotten your finger caught up in the mix? That's a laceration!) A really deep or long laceration is sometimes referred to as a gash, and an avulsion is a specific laceration where tissue is not only separated, but also torn away from the body.

The symptoms of a laceration include pain and bleeding, and infection of the area is of utmost concern. Infection is especially dangerous because of the irregularity of the tear - those irregularities can lead to bacteria getting into places where it's hard to clean them out! Sneaky buggers. Extremely deep cuts or lacerations may expose muscles, tendons, or even bone! An unfortunate side effect can also be fainting or going into shock at the sight of one's own blood inside body parts.

Treatment Options

If a person gets a laceration, the first step involves cleaning and trying to close it. It is necessary to stop the bleeding as soon as possible. Shallow or superficial lacerations will often heal on their own (such as a paper cut). However, deeper lacerations may require medical attention, especially if the cut does not stop bleeding even after direct pressure is applied. In this case, a doctor may have to use some form of stitching and/or tissue glue to close the wound and hold it together until the edges heal back together.

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