How Do You Know When Your Cut Requires Emergency Care?

Doctors in hospital emergency departments see thousands of patients everyday who have suffered various degrees of skin penetrating wounds. While many of these patients do in fact require immediate medical attention, not all do. The issue is, many patients do not know what types of injuries warrant a visit to the Emergency Department and which do not.

GiglioDr. James Giglio Chairman of Emergency Medicine at Flushing Hospital Medical Center states “it’s tricky for patients to tell when cuts require medical attention. Many minor wounds heal without any professional intervention, but some require stiches or other types of treatment for proper healing. So how can you tell when to go to the E.R.?


According to Dr. Giglio, wounds almost always require a trip to local ER if they are:

  • Deep enough to expose the muscle, bone, or fatty tissue
  • Wide enough so that you can’t easily apply pressure to press the edges together
  • Located across a joint (fear of damaging nerves, tendons or ligaments)
  • The result of a bite (may require tetanus or tetanus treatment)
  • Caused by a dirty or rusty object
  • On the face or any other body part where scarring is a concern
  • Still bleeding after 15 minutes of direct pressure

Regardless of whether or not a wound requires a visit to the Emergency Department, the risk of infection increases the longer your wound remains open. Therefore immediate wound care is very important. Dr. Giglio states “It is best to gently clean the wound as soon as possible by irrigating it with thoroughly for a few minutes under tap water. You should also apply direct pressure to the wound and keep it elevated. This will slow or stop the bleeding.”

Thorough wound care is also very important to stave off infection. All wounds should be dressed with a topical antibiotic ointment and covered with a bandage. Doctors recommend reapplying ointment and changing your bandage two -three times daily for the first couple of days. If the healing wound gets wet, pat it dry and apply a dry bandage. Moist bandages delay healing and increase the risk of infection for most wounds. If you become concerned due to worsening pain, redness or swelling, contact your doctor immediately.

According to Dr. Giglio there are always exceptions to these rules. “The best advice I can give is if you are unsure about the severity of your injury, it is better to err on the side of caution and seek medical attention.”

Flushing Hospital Medical Center’s Emergency Department is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week and provides care for tens of thousands of patients every year. The doctors and staff in our Emergency Department can help you decide what level of treatment your wound requires.

All content of this newsletter is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult a medical professional before adopting any of the suggestions on this page. You must never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment based upon any content of this newsletter. PROMPTLY CONSULT YOUR PHYSICIAN OR CALL 911 IF YOU BELIEVE YOU HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY.