Urgent Care

How To Tell If You Need Stitches?

Alexis Bryan
Alexis Bryan12 Dec 2022
Reviewed and Fact Checked ✔️

You might need stitches if you have a cut that bleeds enough to soak through a bandage and keeps bleeding even after you apply direct pressure for 5 to 10 minutes. If you need stitches, you need to visit the emergency room or an urgent care center for medical attention.

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How to Tell if You Need Stitches

There are four common types of wounds that often need stitches to heal properly. They include lacerations, punctures, skin tears, and abrasions. The two main questions to ask yourself when determining if you need stitches are:

  • How big is the wound?
  • How badly is the wound bleeding?

When examining the wound, you should get it checked out by a doctor if the cut looks:

  • Very deep (even if it doesn’t seem too long or wide)
  • Is more than a half-inch long
  • Opens so wide that you can’t get the edges together with just a little pressure
  • Has ragged edges
  • Has debris in it such as dirt, glass, or gravel

You’ll likely need stitches if the wound:

  • Bleeds enough to soak through a bandage
  • Keeps bleeding even after you apply direct pressure for 5 to 10 minutes
  • Spurts blood

Where To Go If You Need Stitches

Where you should go for stitches depends on how serious the cut is and where it’s located. You will likely need to go to an ER to get stitches if:

  • Your cut is extremely deep
  • Is spurting bright red blood
  • Has torn edges

Additionally, if your wound is located on a joint, your face, scalp, and exposes muscles or veins, you will need to go to the ER to get stitches. Urgent care clinics are the place to go for shallow, straight cuts without embedded objects.

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Alexis Bryan

Alexis Bryan MPH, is a recent graduate of Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health. She is passionate about increasing access to care to improve health outcomes. Outside of work, she loves to travel, read, and pay too much attention to her plants.

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