Traumatic wounds are typically defined as cuts, lacerations or puncture wounds which have caused damage to both the skin and underlying tissues. Acute wounds, cut wounds and penetrating wounds are the three categories that make up traumatic wounds. An acute wound occurs when the skin has been ripped or torn and has a jagged appearance. An acute wound typically contains foreign bodies such as gravel, glass, metal or sand. With acute traumatic wounds, it is not uncommon for layers of tissue to be easily visible along the inside of the cut. A traumatic cut wound is the result of something sharp penetrating the skin and the underlying subcutaneous tissues. Penetrating wounds, however, are considered the deepest and most severe of all traumatic wounds, because they often occur as the result of being stabbed or sustaining a gunshot wound. Traumatic wounds can be caused by:
- Incisions, which are generally caused by knives. Cuts from these types of wounds are usually clean-edged.
- Abrasions resulting from scraping of the skin, which generally contain some form of debris like gravel, sand, metal or glass.
- Trauma due to force. This type of traumatic wound is most commonly associated with motor vehicle accidents where body parts are actually crushed, and the skin incurs a variety of lacerations and cut wounds.
- Gunshot and bullet wounds, which can cause both entry and exit wounds.
- Animal bites, which penetrate the skin and tissues.
Because of the wide variation in the types of traumatic wounds, treatment can either be as simple as cleaning and dressing the wound, or it can be more extensive and require surgical intervention to close the wound and stabilize the patient. The treatment of traumatic wounds involves repairing damage to the body's underlying tissue structures, removing any foreign particles and allowing for drainage of the wounds. All of these steps are essential to prevent the possibility of infection and to promote healing. General treatment processes for traumatic wounds may include the following:
- Laceration: The cut is cleaned using sterile saline solution, and debris is extracted from the wound. An antibiotic gel is applied to prevent infection, and then a sterile dressing is applied to keep the wound clean and protected.
- Penetration wound: Often repaired in the operating room under general anesthesia. After the surgical incisions have been made, foreign matter is extracted from the wound while the patient's vital signs are continuously monitored throughout the procedure. The wound is then closed with sutures (stitches) and covered with a sterile bandage. Once the traumatic wound has been tended to, secondary medical issues may be addressed with surgical intervention.
- Abrasions: The wound is cleansed with a sterile gauze pad soaked with saline to remove any debris. The wound is then bandaged and allowed to scab. In almost all cases of traumatic wounds, patients are given a tetanus shot to reduce the risk of a tetanus infection.