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Ask a Doc: How Deep is Deep Enough for Stitches?

June 17th, 2015

My son had a bike wreck and cut his leg open pretty badly. How could we have determined whether it needed stitches?

Accidents seem to be more frequent in summer when children play more outdoors. Cuts that happen in the street or on trails while riding a bike are, by definition, dirty. All cuts should be washed in warm running water with a gentle soap. A small amount of bleeding is common. After washing thoroughly, hold pressure on the wound until bleeding stops. If the cut goes through the skin entirely and fat can be seen, it will need stitches to help it heal back together. Simple wounds are typically handled in the emergency room with cleansing irrigation and repair. Complex and very dirty wounds may require a trip to the operating room where, under a general anesthetic, the wound can be thoroughly cleaned of debris and repaired. Unfortunately, all cuts leave some form of scar.

-Dr. Lisa Smith, Pediatric Surgeon
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