A laceration is a torn, irregular, or jagged wound or an
accidental cutting wound of soft body tissue.
Lacerations commonly occur to the skin but can occur
in other living tissues such as internal organs (e.g.,
kidneys). Lacerations are often caused by blunt trauma
(e.g., falls, collision) and are also caused by sharp
objects such as knives and glass. Pieces of the object
that cause the laceration may sometimes be found in
the wound. An example would be small pieces of glass.
Depending on the shape and sharpness that causes the
laceration, the wound may appear regular/straight
(linear) or irregular (stellate). Typically, lacerations
appear irregular. They often occur during motor vehicle
accidents and fights.
When a laceration occurs, it is important to control bleeding by applying pressure to the
wound. Doing this while holding the wounded area up (above the heart if possible) for 15
minutes is usually enough to control the bleeding. If the bleeding does not stop, immediate
medical care should be sought such as calling 911. Lacerations are treated by cleansing
the area with warm water and mild soap. Antibacterial ointment can be used for small
lacerations and then covered with a butterfly shaped band-aid. Larger lacerations are
treated by closing the wound with sutures or staples and covering it with gauze and
sometimes a wrap bandage.
The dressings are supposed to be changed daily, with a new
application of antiseptic ointment. Swelling, pus formation, and red
radiating skin streaks are signs of infection and a doctor should be
Over the counter pain relievers (e.g., ibuprofen and acetaminophen)
can be used for pain relief. Laceration also means the act or
process of tearing or slashing the tissues. Lacerated means being
torn, split, or having a ragged edge. Lacerable means capable of
being torn or liable to be torn. Laceration comes from the Latin word
“lacer” meaning “mangled.”