A laceration is an injury that results in an irregular break in the skin, more commonly referred to as a cut, but defined as a torn and ragged wound. There are five general types of lacerations:
Split laceration: This type of wound is caused when part of the body is crushed between two objects. While not as serious and a crush injury, a split laceration is caused in the same manner, with the striking object making a blunt impact and causing the skin and tissues to tear from compression. Split lacerations most commonly show up on the face, head, hands and legs.
Over-stretching: This would is typically caused by a single, angular force that strikes the skin and either pushes or pulls the skin, causing it to stretch and break. An example of an over-stretching wound would be a gunshot. As a bullet pierces the skin at an angle and continues underneath, it will lodge beneath the skin and cause compression and expansion that will tear the skin beyond the initial point of impact.
Grinding compression: When an object strikes the skin with a blunt impact at either an angle or with a sweeping motion, the resulting laceration is a grinding compression. In the same manner that a potato is peeled, a person’s skin is essentially peeled back when this type of laceration occurs. As the object strikes the skin, the tissue is crushed beneath the epidermis and the top layer of skin peels away.
Cut laceration: The most common type of laceration, a cut occurs when any type of blade (knife, ax, scissors, etc.) comes into contact with the skin, causing a break of the skin and possibly the underlying tissue.
Tearing: Just as the name implies, this type of laceration occurs when the skin is broken by an object and the break is ripped due to pressure pushing the wound in two different directions, essentially causing the skin to tear like a piece of paper.
Lacerations are caused when an object strikes the skin and causes a wound to open. Depending on a variety of characteristics (angle, force, depth, object), some lacerations can be more serious than others, reaching as far as deep tissue and leading to serious bleeding.
The predominant symptoms of lacerations are mild to serious breaking of the epidermis, tears in the first layer of skin that can range from small slices to deep gashes. Depending on the depth of the laceration, there can be bleeding of different levels of severity. Mild lacerations may experience brief bleeding accompanied by mild pain. Deeper lacerations will experience greater bleeding and more intense pain.
As is the first step in most injuries to the skin, cleaning the wound is of utmost importance as to stave off infection and inflammation. For mild lacerations, the use of a topical ointment, such as Neosporin, is recommended, as it the application of a basic bandage. For deeper wounds, as in those that affect the tissue beneath the skin and experience heavier bleeding, attention from a medical professional should be required, as the wound will likely need to be closed with stitches, staples or even sutures.
As with minor lacerations, while waiting for medical attention with more serious wounds, it is imperative to clean the wound first and then apply pressure with a clean bandage to limit bleeding as much as possible.
With lacerations and any skin wound in general, the best means of prevention is to use the right equipment, wear the proper clothing and exercise strong judgment and reason when in situations that could be detrimental to your health or physical well-being.