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What is an Acute Wound?

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  • Written By: Sandra Koehler
  • Edited By: M. C. Hughes
  • Last Modified Date: 01 September 2016
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An acute wound is any damage sustained by the body, particularly the skin, that disrupts homeostasis or the body’s internal balance. Acute wounds appear suddenly but typically do not last long. Examples of an acute wound are injuries and surgical procedures.

Injuries considered acute could be anything from a minor scratch to deep lacerations, surgical incisions or puncture wounds. Healing time is dependent on the extent of damage to the tissues. For example, a deep puncture wound can damage the muscles, nerves, blood vessels or internal organs in addition to interrupting the integrity of the skin. A serious acute wound may also cause the body to lose a significant amount of blood.

The main symptoms of an acute wound include abrupt pain, inflammation including reddening and swelling, and bleeding. Normal movement of the area could become impaired and the area surrounding the wound might feel warm to the touch. The first course of action when sustaining an acute wound is providing immediate first aid. Stopping blood loss is crucial to stabilize the body.

Applying direct pressure to the opened area of skin will slow or stop bleeding. If bleeding does not stop, seek immediate medical attention. Applying a dressing to cover the acute wound will help manage blood loss while protecting the area from environmental factors such as dirt which can increase the risk of infection.

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Unclean acute wounds may exhibit a pus secretion. Pus is a normal part of the body’s defense and healing mechanisms. Pus form to attack and clear away infection. When pus begins to gather, the body may also develop a fever, another protective method of the body.

Once the immediate health dangers are addressed, an acute wound needs to be treated. The area must be thoroughly cleaned. With deep cuts, a process called debridement may be necessary. Debridement removes foreign materials and damaged, dead or infected areas. Drainage of pus may also be part of the debridement process. Repair of the internal structures, such as muscles or blood vessels can also be addressed in this step.

When the acute wound is clean the skin must be closed to allow it to fuse back into place. This can be done with stitches. Depending on the extent of the injury, a dressing or covering may be used to prevent further contamination of the affect area. Topical medications could be utilized to accelerate healing of the opened skin. When fever is present oral medications may be called for to fight internal infection.

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