Is there a rule of (severed) thumb for when to get stitches?

This weekend the edge of my palm (the karate chop edge) said “hi” to a saw with much blood. It was pretty deep, I’d say an inch long cut that at its peak went in about a quarter of an inch. Much jagged flesh as I’m sure you can imagine.

I did the old “apply pressure” and the bleeding subsided within about ten minutes after washing out the wound with hand soap. I later applied (and continue to apply) some hydrogen peroxide solution and then bandage it up with Neosporin (which has always worked well for me). The wound is pretty closed today (after two days) though there are some stray “inner bits” that are dying off.

Still a gross wound.

But after it happened I wondered: should I get stitches? And then it struck me: I really have no idea what would qualify that statement.

How would I know if I should get stitches?

Go see a doctor. They know.

IANAD but I think it will be too late to stitch it up now.

IANAD, but I seem to recall that doctors will not stitch wounds after twenty-four hours. After a day, the tissue has already bonded together or will not bond. I repeat though, IANAD.

Stitches will do a lot for reducing scars, although I had an injury to the same part of my hand that was stiched up and the scar was visible for years - it’s been about 10 years and I can still faintly see it. You might need a tetanus shot, you should see a doctor. They say every ten years for a tetanus booster, but for some types of injuries, they play it safe and give you the shot if it’s been over five years.

For myself, if it is in an area that I am concerned about scarring, I get it stitched. If you need a tetanus shot booster, see a doctor even if you’re not concerned about scarring, They can clean it out for you, too.

Sorry to hear of this accident. I am not a doctor… ha. But, I believe you have a window of opportunity when it comes to stitches. After so many hours and I am not sure how many, they will not stitch it up. You will probably have less of a scar with stitches. There is quicker healing with stitches. It becomes less likely to tear your cut apart again. I think infection is less likely with stitches. It’s a good idea to see a doctor regardless. When was the last time you had a tetnus shot? I think they are good for seven years. (WAG). If you think “do I need stitches?”, you probably should see a doctor. I hope you have a speedy recovery.

If the bleeding won’t stop, then you need to get stitches. If it is a really deep wound, then you need dissolving sutures (internal) to heal the wound and help prevent infection. Unless your worried about scarring, just keep it clean w/ peroxide, butterfly and gauze the cut closed.

After it is first healed over, remove the bandages and regularly apply an aloevera and/or Vit. E cream/moisturizer to the scar tissue to keep it from becoming hard.

W/in a week you should be in pretty good shape. A tetanus shot might not hurt, depending of course on how long since your last one. I hear 10 years is acceptable now. If the cut shows signs of infection there are some over/counter anti bio’s that should knock it out. Actually the cut doesn’t sound too bad to me. But, then I’ve had dozens of cuts and several w/ stitches, all total over a hundred stitches/staples/sutures maybe more.

disclaimer: I am NOT a doctor, but I have had quite a bit of experience w/ cuts, many w/stitches and many w/out. Matter of fact, I’ve had a cut almost exactly as the one you described. Let me also say, I do not scar bad…some people do.

jacksen9 is probably right w/ the advise, if you’re that worried about it…go see a doctor. (I probably wouldn’t if it were me)
But, whatever you decide, take care.


Whether you “need” stitches or not depends on several factors, including how deep and how long the wound is, the orientation of the wound and on what body part the wound occurs.

In general, you should always have cuts to your hands examined by a doctor, especially cuts to the back of your hand. Even a relatively small nick to the back of your hand can damage nerves and tendons. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.

Even though it is probably too late to get stitches in your case. I’d probably have a doctor look at it. You may need a tetanus shot and there may be something the doctor can do to minimize scar tissue.

BTW - many hospitals in the U.S. run an “ask-a-nurse” line. This can be great for getting the straight dope on how seriously to take a problem. Failing that, I’ve known people who called up local emergency rooms for advice. Apparently the conversation invariably goes something like, “I’m sorry maam, we can’t give advice over the phone.” “Yes, I understand that, I just wanted to know whether I ought to rush in to the emergency room right now or whether I can just see my doctor in the morning. These are the symptoms/wound description.” “Weeeel, uhh, if it were me, unless you have symptom X or problem Y, it ought to keep until morning.” If it’s clearly not an emergency, emergency room staffs would really prefer to not have you cluttering up their hallway.

Go see a doctor, now.

One of the reasons for stitches that many people forget is that they will significantly lessen scaring. If you get a skilled doctor to sew up that wound, any future scars may very well be invisible (or just mistaken for a natural crease in the hand).

So although you may survive if you do not get stitches, it is very likely to heal much worse then it would have otherwise.

Concur. My pinky got sliced almost to the bone [censored] years ago, from the tip vertically down the middle to the first joint. The [censored again] doctor at the clinic decided it didn’t need stitches & butterflied it together. :frowning: I have a horrendous scar there to this day.

On the plus side, it’s a great thing to show my kids when I’m instructing them not to play with knives. :smiley:

I hope you have an up-to-date tetanus innoculation