Rambo would've used a bullet
November 20, 2007 11:44 PM   Subscribe

Am I going to get a nasty scar?

While opening a can of dulce de leche today, my finger slipped and I gashed a divot out of my index fingertip about 1cm long, 3mm wide, and 3mm deep. It started bleeding a surprising amount, and borrowing from my pet first aid knowledge I stopped the bleeding with a styptic pencil, cleaned it with Bactine, and put on a bandage and Neosporin. Should I have gone i and tried to get stiches instead of the styptic pencil? Am I going to end up with a slow healing, large scar?
posted by TungstenChef to Health & Fitness (26 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Oh yeah, a follow up. I know my tetanus vaccination is out of date due to my severe phobia of needles, am I in danger of lockjaw? Keeping in mind the can had been boiled for 3 hours the night before.
posted by TungstenChef at 11:48 PM on November 20, 2007

Best answer: Fingertips are pretty resilient. Yes, it's going to mark, but it will probably fade. Just from looking at all the various places I've cut my hands over the years, stitches may not have made much difference, as long as you got the bleeding stopped. It's quite possible that the hospital wouldn't have stitched you up anyway. I think you're probably ok on the tetanus front, but IANAD.

So, short answers - not really, and yes.

And for future reference, superglue works in a pinch for sealing a small wound like that too.
posted by pupdog at 12:03 AM on November 21, 2007

Best answer: I was cutting a pair of jeans with scissors once and they slipped, leaving my index fingertip with a small chunk sliced and hanging by a small flap on one side. Just smaller than yours if I'm converting right.

I cleaned it, bandaged it, and left it to heal up. This took weeks, maybe a month to fit back into place, and sometime longer to smooth itself back out and feel normal. I do have a noticable scar, but it's not deformed or anything.

Yours is torn clean off? I'm not sure if stitches would have helped for something that small, but I'm not a doctor or anything. I had a gash on my face as a kid and they used butterfly stitch to sort of glue it up.

You can always try putting some Mederma or similar on it to reduce or fade scarring after it heals up some.
posted by cmgonzalez at 12:06 AM on November 21, 2007

Best answer: Unless I miss my guess, as a fellow super needle-phobe, you're just reeling right now with the fear that you really ought to go get stitches (with a needle!!!1eleven!) or a shot (with a syringe!!omgvomiting!), but can't reconcile that with your capabilities. If you don't mind letting your finger scar, you can probably just leave it. This is not the needle battle you fear. You're not diabetic, you're just gouged. Take care of it, as you say you have been, don't let it become infected, and see a doctor of you decide to address the aesthetic issue of your digit's new "character."
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 12:26 AM on November 21, 2007

Best answer: Over the years I've had a lot of jobs involving boxcutters, so naturally I've sliced up my hands a few times. The fingertips heal up remarkably quickly -- a week, tops -- and the resulting scars usually fade within a month. YMMV.

As for tetanus, I don't know. Assuming whatever you cut yourself on wasn't rusty and covered in dirt, you should probably be fine, but IANAD.
posted by Reggie Digest at 12:38 AM on November 21, 2007

Best answer: The best thing I've found to reduce scarring is to use Vitamin E oil. Not the cosmetic stuff, but the capsules you'd take as a supplement. Prick the gel capsule with a pin, and massage the oil in. It's more concentrated than cosmetic Vitamin E oil.

I had some horrible scarring (I had a finger reattached) and the Vitamin E helped the scarring fade to almost nothing.
posted by essexjan at 12:39 AM on November 21, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks all, Ambrosia's got it totally right, my irrational fear of needles has me more terrified of a quick pinprick than the fact that 1/7 people who get lockjaw die from it. But hey at least my wife can put something on my epitaphyabout finally shutting up.

Now time to lay into a supply of finger jimmie hats, the work of a DIY-yourselfer is never done!
posted by TungstenChef at 12:58 AM on November 21, 2007

I once cut a chunk about the size you described off of the tip of my left index finger while chopping some veggies while I wasn't paying attention. It bled like you wouldn't beleive, but I just cleaned it as well as I could, stuck a band-aid on it, and left it alone for a while.

As of right now, many months later, if you look really really hard you can see that the fingertip isn't completely round, but that's really it.
posted by phredgreen at 12:59 AM on November 21, 2007

FWIW, I cut my finger open with a boxcutter, and since it was at work, they wanted me to get the tetanus shot, and I did (over five years ago and not a shot since despote ambulance rides and stuff) and it wasn't that bad. I didn't have to see the needle and it was fast. No PTSD or anything. See my previous askme on needle phobia tips if need be. I just screamed a bit.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 1:02 AM on November 21, 2007

Palmer's Cocoa Butter has Vitamin E and is pretty cheap. The rest of the ingredients protect and help your skin as well. Most of the advantage of rubbing vitamin E or anything else into the skin comes from the rubbing, not necessarily from the substance. Just make sure to do it in the morning and at night - most of my biggest scars have been from sutures, so there's no indication they would have prevented what may result.
posted by kcm at 1:03 AM on November 21, 2007

/me looks at similar sized lesion inflicted a few weeks ago while fiddling with a small buck knife. Nah, it's going to be fine, can't even see the scar I made now, and boy was it a bleeder. Of course if you have certain genes you'll be at risk of keloidsbut you'd probably already know if that was the case by now.
posted by singingfish at 1:21 AM on November 21, 2007

Fingertips are great at healing. I once had my finger inside a bagel's hole at the same time as I was sawing the rest of the bagel open. Yeah, bad idea. The gash was huge, but that was five years ago. Now I can't find the scar any more!
posted by evariste at 1:27 AM on November 21, 2007 [1 favorite]

Essexjan, that's just teasing to not tell the story....
posted by pjern at 2:26 AM on November 21, 2007

I think the degree of scarring is at least partly an individual thing. I seem to scar easily, and after 15 years of intensive cooking, my hands are pretty gnarly. I had a not dissimilar injury to yours on my thumb from a penknife, inflicted the best part of 20 years ago, the scar from which is still very clearly visible as an inch long, mm wide white line.

I understand that keeping foreign matter out of the wound, and leaving the scab undisturbed to heal will help a lot with the scarring, but this is easier said than done on hands.
posted by bifter at 3:29 AM on November 21, 2007

I cut half the very tip of a finger off once... about half a cm accross couple of mms deep - it bled a lot but I never went to hospital with it. The flap of skin dropped off in time. It all eventually heald up and grew back with a tiny half-moon scar that has faded over the years so that I have look really.

I did hack a lot deeper cut in another finger a few years ago... I went to the hospital for that but they just used stick on butterfly stiches / plasters to close it up. Then I just had a nurse check it out a bit later to make sure it was healing all right. That has left a scar but it's not all that noticeable.

If you say it's 3mm wide... ie the cut is that wide, then I think it will leave a scar... though that's cool for getting into Jaws style conversations (though I've found that 'cutting ham to make a sandwich' isn't quite as cool as say 'fending off a barracuda')
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 3:54 AM on November 21, 2007

Is this an anecdote thread now? Great! I sliced a finger open on a can of tuna several years ago. I didn't give it any first aid beyond Neosporin and a band-aid. The scar persists to this day, forming a fascinatingly perfect parabola. Ask to see it at the next meet-up!
posted by Faint of Butt at 4:47 AM on November 21, 2007

When I was a senior in high school, I sliced the end of my index finger clean off with and Exacto knife while cutting litho negatives. Yep, bled like a [something that bleeds a lot]. I cleaned it and wrapped it. Within a few months you couldn't tell at all. I was a little disappointed because I wanted people to notice so I could tell them my story. But now I have.
posted by The Deej at 5:39 AM on November 21, 2007

Just as a point of reference on what it takes to permanently scar a fingertip: When I was very young, I got my middle finger SLAMMED IN A DOOR which not only severed the tip but CHIPPED THE BONE at the end of the finger. Now, three decades later, the end of that finger is still kinda flattened out and there's a big flat spot in the middle of my fingerprint there.

So unless you have bone trauma, the scarring should fade over time. Oh, and get that tetanus shot. However horrible needles are, tetanus is way, way worse.
posted by BigLankyBastard at 6:17 AM on November 21, 2007

If you do use Vitamin E capsules as essexjan suggests, don't put them on too soon. I had a huge, messy scrape on my arm from pavement (my skinny bike tire got caught in the streetcar tracks), and the Vitamin E seemed to keep things from healing. I think I was supposed to wait until the skin was growing back and the grossness had healed before using the Vitamin E.
posted by bassjump at 6:26 AM on November 21, 2007

You can also get vitamin E without the capsules here . It is not the cosmetic stuff but the same oil inside of the capsules.

I did the same thing two months ago. I was opening a can of olives when I slipped and mangled my finger in a similar way. I don't have a scar though. Hope the same is true for you.
posted by munchingzombie at 9:21 AM on November 21, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks again for the advice, and now the gross stories. :-) One last question if anybody's still reading, are there any problems with using styptic pencils on small to medium sized gashes like this? It hurt like hell for a few seconds, but completely stopped the bleeding and cauterized the wound in about 60 secondes.
posted by TungstenChef at 9:59 AM on November 21, 2007

That's what it's supposed to do - painful, but generally effective. I wouldn't worry too much about it, the real problem is when the cut it big enough that it keeps opening back up - that's why they're generally used for shaving, where it's just a little nick.
posted by pupdog at 10:45 AM on November 21, 2007

Boy, reading this thread will induce queasiness, even if you don't have needle-phobia.

Use an antibiotic ointment and change the bandage frequently. If it gets puffy, or there are any red streaks, or pus, see a doctor. IANAD
posted by theora55 at 11:06 AM on November 21, 2007

Yes, styptic pencils can hurt like hell right after application on larger wounds. I essentially sliced off the tip of a finger chopping an onion a couple months ago and stypticked it when it wouldn't stop bleeding. Followed that up with a bandaid and some neosporin and now I can't tell which finger it was I cut.
posted by fidelity at 12:23 PM on November 21, 2007

I hacked off the end of my right thumb in the meat slicer at a deli- cutting hot-peppered turkey, no less. I took off a good centimeter of my digit, and all I have left to show for it is a little puckered swirl in my fingerprint. I was hoping for something more dramatic, given how badly it hurt.
posted by wzcx at 1:29 PM on November 21, 2007

I work as a chef. I've seen a lot of nasty cuts, and had a few myself. I second pupdog - fingers are pretty resilient. In my experience you're much less likely to scar in any sort of permanent way there, and any scars fade pretty quickly.

I was once doing an order for twenty desserts (not fun) and as I was about to send out a sundae I had to dice up some kiwifruit. I had wet hands, my knife slipped, and I cut into the tip of my thumb at a 45 degree angle, right into the nail, about half a centimetre. It wasn't a nasty cut by kitchen standards, but it looked like part of the tip of my thumb was gonna fall off. In typical hospitality fashion, I wrapped a few napkins around it and finished my desserts. It healed, albeit slightly lumpily, with nothing more than a wash and some plasters. A few years later and it looks more or less normal.

Generally, unless you damage some nerves or tendon (unlikely in the fingers, more so in the palm) you should be okay.
posted by Dillonlikescookies at 3:09 AM on November 22, 2007

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