Cuts Left Open: Care Instructions

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Your Care Instructions

Foot with cut

A cut can happen anywhere on your body. Sometimes a cut can injure the tendons, blood vessels, or nerves.

A cut may be left open instead of being closed with stitches, staples, or adhesive. A cut may be left open when it is likely to become infected, because closing it can make infection even more likely.

You will probably have a bandage.

The doctor may want the cut to stay open the whole time it heals. This happens with some cuts when too much time has gone by since the cut happened. Or the doctor may tell you to come back to have the cut closed in 4 to 5 days, when there is less chance of infection.

If the cut stays open while healing, your scar may be larger than if the cut was closed. But you can get treatment later to make the scar smaller.

The doctor has checked you carefully, but problems can develop later. If you notice any problems or new symptoms, get medical treatment right away.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Keep the cut dry for the first 24 to 48 hours. After this, you can shower if your doctor okays it. Pat the cut dry.
  • Don't soak the cut, such as in a bathtub. Your doctor will tell you when it's safe to get the cut wet.
  • If your doctor told you how to care for your cut, follow your doctor's instructions. If you did not get instructions, follow this general advice:
    • After the first 24 to 48 hours, wash the cut with clean water 2 times a day. Don't use hydrogen peroxide or alcohol, which can slow healing.
    • You may cover the cut with a thin layer of petroleum jelly, such as Vaseline, and a non-stick bandage.
    • Apply more petroleum jelly and replace the bandage as needed.
  • Prop up the area on a pillow anytime you sit or lie down during the next 3 days. Try to keep it above the level of your heart. This will help reduce swelling. Put a thin cloth between the ice and your skin.
  • Avoid any activity that could cause your cut to get worse.
  • Take pain medicines exactly as directed.
    • If the doctor gave you a prescription medicine for pain, take it as prescribed.
    • If you are not taking a prescription pain medicine, ask your doctor if you can take an over-the-counter medicine.

When should you call for help?

Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have new pain, or your pain gets worse.
  • The cut starts to bleed, and blood soaks through the bandage. Oozing small amounts of blood is normal.
  • The skin near the cut is cold or pale or changes colour.
  • You have tingling, weakness, or numbness near the cut.
  • You have trouble moving the area near the cut.
  • You have symptoms of infection, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness around the cut.
    • Red streaks leading from the cut.
    • Pus draining from the cut.
    • A fever.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:

  • The cut is not closing (getting smaller).
  • You do not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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