Best way to let a knife wound (cut) heal?
February 11, 2006 1:42 PM   Subscribe

I cut my left index finger something fierce with a very sharp serrated knife. What's the best thing to do to help it heal fast and well?

It's between my 2nd and 3rd knuckle, the whole thumb-side and a quarter of the top. It was with this knife, if that makes a difference. It bled for a really long time and I considered going to the emergency room but, for reasons I'll not get into, couldn't, and now can't leave my place till Monday.

I've been putting polysporin on it and keeping it under a very tightly wrapped band-aid. However, I've changed the band-aid 3 times and the gash is pretty significant now that I can see it without the blood. Should I just keep changing the band-aid (how often?) and doing the polysporin or ... should I be letting it "breath" or what? The best thing about the band-aid is that it's across the knuckle so is keeping the finger stiff. When I bend the finger, the gash opens more and it starts to bleed again. Without the band-aid it'll be hard not to bend the finger as I'm typing all weekend with a vicious Monday deadline I can't get out of.

I already have a toonie shaped scar on my palm and would rather avoid one on the top of the same hand. Any suggestions that don't involve a doctor?

Though I'm "chained" home, there is a drugstore across the street that I can access. Thanks!
posted by dobbs to Health & Fitness (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I can't say much to help you but last week I opened up my pinky with exactly that knife if it makes you feel any better. I just got the knife and didn't know it was uite as sharp as it was. It doesn't sound like my gash was as nasty as yours but a little neosporin and a few band-aids later and it's sewn itself up well. Just commiserating.
posted by Evstar at 1:48 PM on February 11, 2006

Best answer: Sounds to me like you're bandaging it so tightly that you're squeezing the platelet-rich blood that should be closing the wound out of the wound edges. Don't seal it or bandage it too tightly, but do keep it protected and moist with Neosporin or Polysporin. Just keep swapping the bandages - gauze and tape are probably better than adhesive bandages - letting the wound clot and scab normally. If the bleeding hasn't slowed in an hour or so, you should really go to the emergency room - fingers are nice to have.
posted by nicwolff at 2:15 PM on February 11, 2006

Get some gauze and tape, if you're bleeding through band-aids too quickly. Keep it wrapped snugly, but not too tight, as nicwolff pointed out. Beyond that, keep it clean and keep *sporin on it.
posted by middleclasstool at 2:20 PM on February 11, 2006

Don't forget duct tape if necessary.
posted by sled at 2:23 PM on February 11, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks, all. I'll loosen the bandaid and keep sporin. How often should I open the bandaid and put more in?
posted by dobbs at 2:38 PM on February 11, 2006

This happened to me once, and I didn't get stitches (but should have). I ended up putting a tight bandaid with lots of polysporin over my finger. I had to change it often, and did so without looking (ew, blood) so I didn't really know how bad it was until it was halfway healed. It bled for a few days (48 hrs) and after that it oozed puss for a bit while it was healing. It healed with a relatively wide scar (for a finger) and afterwards I regretted not having a doctor fix it properly, but it's not too bad, and the scar isn't obvious.

For a while after it healed, I had no sense of touch on that part of my finger at all. (It's on the outer side of my index finger.) I'm talking several months. It did get back eventually, but the sensations on that part of my finger still don't match those of the same finger on the other hand, and it's 4 or 5 years later now. I also still have a little bump from it healing kind of in the wrong place, due to me not wanting to look at it while I changed bandaids (I should have pushed the flesh back in the right place, but even typing this makes me squirm!)
posted by easternblot at 2:40 PM on February 11, 2006

My dad aced his thumb the other week, in much the same way. Get some peroxide on it (alcohol burns!) to clean the area AROUND the wound. Keep blotting the wound, and keep it over your head for as long as your arms can hold. Do not wrap it tightly.
How deep is the cut? Can you feel your fingertip still?
posted by notsnot at 2:40 PM on February 11, 2006

Response by poster: Yes, I can feel my fingertip no problem. And when I touch the area around the cut, I can feel it (it hurts).

The cut is extremely clean (the benefit of an expensive knife) so there's no flesh to really push back.

It feels much better since I loosened the bandage. Weird that I always though you're supposed to apply as much pressure to wounds as possible.
posted by dobbs at 2:50 PM on February 11, 2006

Best answer: Use some butterfly closures on it to keep the gash closed beneath the gauze and bandaid. I cut my finger almost to the bone and didn't go to the hospital as I had no health insurance, or money for that matter. I put the closures on it and wrapped it with gauze and tape for the first couple of days. I then switched to regular bandaids (still with the butterflys underneath). I was using neosporin until the cut closed, and then continued to moisturize until fully healed. Once the finger healed, I would flex it regularly throughout the day to stretch out the scar tissue. There is no visible scar on my finger now, and I cut it less than a year ago.
posted by Roger Dodger at 3:00 PM on February 11, 2006

Seconded on the butterfly closures and the gauze. Make sure you continue to keep it clean.

It's going to bleed a lot. The knife you used (excellent choice by the way), because of it's serrated edge will create a wound profile that is a cross between an incision and a laceration. Incisions tend to heal quickly and don't bleed a lot, a laceration is more like a tear and will take a while to fully close up.

/not a doctor, just someone who has accidently tagged himself more than once with a serrated knife.
posted by quin at 3:32 PM on February 11, 2006

Best answer: Unless you are confident that the wound only affects the skin layer, go have it looked at to make sure there is no nerve or ligament damage.

As for how to care for it, don't let it scab over. While it might appear to heal more quickly, scabbing results in much more scarring. As suggested by others, keep it bandaged and moist. Antibiotic, vitamin-enriched ointments help quite a bit. Don't worry if it is seeping -- just keep changing the dressings.

Pressure is necessary only for wounds where there is a threat of serious blood loss. Otherwise you want there to be good circulation (even if it involves slight bleeding) in order to promote tissue re-growth. If there is a gap in the tissue that prevents it from fusing together then stitching, not pressure, is the correct treatment.
posted by randomstriker at 3:41 PM on February 11, 2006

Hands are very vascular, so even though a cut maybe small or insignificant it will still bleed like stink making you think you've done major damage. Unless you've nearly severed your finger, most knofe cuts heal pretty well without sutures (bear in mind that without an examination this cannot be guaranteed).

If you don't want to or unable to get medical advice/help, my suggestion would be to use some steri-strips to pull the edges of the cut together and then cover it with a bandaid to keep it clean.

As long as the wound is clean (ie. not full of dirt and crap) antisceptics/antimicrobials shouldn't be neccessary.

The cut should be healing well within 4 or 5 days, just leave the steri-strips on until they fall off and re-evaluate.

The only other thing to consider is whether you need a tetanus vaccination, however if you've been immunised within the lasy 10 years and it's a clean cut, then you're pretty safe.
posted by mule at 4:10 PM on February 11, 2006 [1 favorite]

Go to a clinic. Solved.
posted by DieHipsterDie at 6:32 PM on February 11, 2006

Just to make sure: it has stopped bleeding, right? If not, you should go to an ER. I once did the same thing and it didn't stop bleeding for like seven hours until I finally passed out. It was a good thing I woke up and had the clarity of mind to call a friend, who took me to the ER.
posted by trip and a half at 7:31 PM on February 11, 2006

Response by poster: Yes, it's stopped bleeding. I think it's under control now. Thanks, all!
posted by dobbs at 8:48 PM on February 11, 2006

The last time I did that to myself I ended up wearing a finger splint for about two weeks to keep from constantly popping it open. Nice smooth knife cuts are reluctant to knit, even with butterflies and/or liquid bandage.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:05 AM on February 13, 2006

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