It is important to determine if your wound needs to be closed by a
doctor. Your risk of infection increases the longer the wound
remains open. Most wounds that require closure should be stitched, stapled, or
skin adhesives (also called liquid stitches) within 6 to 8 hours after the
injury. Some wounds that require treatment can be closed as long as 24 hours
after the injury.
Wash the wound well and stop the bleeding, then pinch the sides of
the wound together. If the edges of the wound come together and it looks
better, you may want to consider seeing your doctor for treatment.
If treatment may be needed, do not use an antiseptic or antibiotic ointment
until after a doctor has examined the wound.
The location and type of wound also affects how soon it should be
Wounds that have an increased risk of infection,
such as dirty cuts or crush injuries, are usually closed within 6 hours after
the injury. Occasionally a wound that has an increased risk of infection will
not be closed until after 24 hours, or may not be stitched at all, so that
adequate cleaning and antibiotic treatment can be done initially to prevent
A cut with a clean object, such as a clean kitchen knife,
may be treated from 12 to 24 hours after the injury depending on the location
of the cut.
A facial wound may be treated to reduce
Treatment by a doctor is more likely to be needed for:
Wounds that are more than
0.25 in. (6.5 mm) deep, that
have jagged edges, or that gape open.
Deep wounds that go down to
the fat, muscle, bone, or other deep structures.
Deep wounds over a
joint, especially if the wound opens when the joint is moved or if pulling the
edges of the wound apart shows fat, muscle, bone, or joint
Deep wounds on the hands or fingers.
on the face, lips, or any area where you are worried about scarring (for
cosmetic reasons). Wounds on the eyelids often need treatment for both
functional and cosmetic reasons.
Wounds longer than
0.75 in. (20 mm) that are
deeper than 0.25 in. (6.5 mm).
Wounds that continue to bleed after 15 minutes of
The types of wounds listed above usually need an evaluation by a
doctor but may not always need to be closed by a doctor.
Treatment by a doctor may not be needed for:
Wounds with smooth edges that stay together
during normal movement of the affected body part.
less than 0.25 in. (6.5 mm)
deep and less than
0.75 in. (20 mm)
Most puncture wounds.
The wounds tend to be smaller, and
treatment does not speed healing or reduce scarring.
tend to be deeper, narrower, and harder to clean. Closing a puncture wound with
stitches, staples, or skin adhesive may seal bacteria into it, which increases
the risk of infection.
If a puncture wound becomes infected, it
will usually drain better and heal faster if it is not closed with stitches,
staples, or skin adhesive.
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.