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Which (Flesh) Cuts Heal Faster?

Jedi Knife

May 6, 1999
Is there a difference in the time it takes for a relatively straight cut to naturally mend together as opposed to a "jagged one"? I thought I had overheard a physician comment on this years ago, as a child, but I forgot exactly what he said.


Jedi, as a professional researcher of 'wound healing' and other medical matters, I can tell you that a clean, smooth cut will heal much faster than a jagged cut or tear. The reason is because a sharp blade will divide tissue such that the two sides of the cut can be placed back together very closely to their original position. This means there will be less of a gap to fill with connective tissue (granulation tissue), the cut will develop high tensile strength faster, and the epidermis (the top layer of skin) can close over the wound sooner. In the case of serious trauma involving jagged edges and tears, the skin is usually debrided, which means the jagged or non-opposable bits of tissue must be cut or scrapped off in order to allow faster healing wtih less scarification.

Because of the linear way the collagen fibers in our deep connective tissue are formed, there are natural 'lines of cleavage' in our skin which allow opening and closing of the skin with less trauma and faster healing. Surgeons follow these natural cleavage lines when making incisions. Wounds that cut across these lines will be more painful, slower to heal, and more prone to leaving noticable scars.

If you must cut yourself, do it with a sharp knife


[This message has been edited by Paracelsus (edited 11-08-2000).]
I think it typically depends on the amount of material removed from the cut, and the size and location of the cut. A cut from a chainsaw, which rips apart whatever it cuts, will likely take longer to heal than one from a kitchen knife. This is also why belt-sander cuts take forever to heal.
Thanks for the expertise. Hopefully I won't have to learn about this "first-hand" (pun intended).

I've been a knife nut for over 40 years. I've owned lots of types of blades and have cut myself in many ways. Most of my blades are smooth and razor sharp. Simple straight in cut with one of these heals fast. I usually apply pressure till I can get to a cold water tap. Then I rinse the cut thoroughly and rub in some Neosporin. Then I tape the wound shut with bandages. These wounds don't hurt much and heal quickly.

In contrast, I have cut myself while sharpening bayonets and machetes using a file or coarse stone. These cuts hurt much more, bleed more, and heal slower.

My worst scars come from ripped tin cans, broken glass, and other sharp debris. Cuts with these are often irregular gouges running under the skin rather than down into it. The problem is partly the wound irregularity and partly the destruction of blood vessels to the skin surface. As I write I subconciously rub the lumpy tin can scar on my thumb.
Steve-O gives a shudder...

Sixteen years old...cheap machete in the vise...mill file...right to the bone!

Took quite a while to heal.

A lesson learned.

[This message has been edited by Steve-O (edited 11-08-2000).]

[This message has been edited by Steve-O (edited 11-08-2000).]
Take it from a balisong artist, clean cuts heal faster. And, cuts do heal faster with Neosporin.

Balisongs -- because it don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing!
hehe...I consider myself quite careful but for some reason I still managed to cut myself several times with miscellaneous Japanese and Japanese style blades over a while now. They cut very smoothly usually, you don't really know they've cut until you either see it or feel the skin stretch a little while moving...but they heal fast usually too.
Saw a case study regarding knapped obsidian surgeon's tools. According to the author they healed much faster and cleaner than the cuts created by the traditional steel scalpel. Probably has something to do with the way the body reacts to a natural material like obsidian versus the way it responds to the chemicals composing the steel. Infected wounds aren't healing at all because they are full of junk that needs to be moved out before proper healing can take place.

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Steven, I took Jedi's question as being serious. My response was completely serious as well. And Chiro is right about infection slowing or preventing wound healing. But I'm guessing you are referring to the obsidian knife claim. I have read that as well. I think it is entirely ancedotal and not backed by any credible evidence. I also doubt that residual material from either steel or obsidian has any influence on wound healing, one way or the other. It is true, however, that knapped obsidian blades are exceedingly sharp and probably make very good scalpels. However, they chip and wear out quickly, and it is very hard to produce a significant length of straight edge.

How's That for a serious (non-joking) answer?

What Paracelsus, esteemed colleague, said is absolutely true.

There was a guy some years ago who was into paleo tools, and did an appendectomy with obsidian tools (he was a surgeon). The operation and patient both did well. There was no apprecable advantage to this technique, however, and it never caught on.

There is a difference between an incision and a laceration. Most cuts that occur as accidents are lacerations. The difference is that there is some tearing of the tissue with a laceration, not just the simple cutting of an incision. As noted above, jagged lacerations are more difficult to deal with, and frequently require sharp debridement (you cut away the hamburger) to aid healing. Frankly, however, jagged lacs healed about as fast as the others, in my experience.

There are two huge factors not mentioned yet. First, the age of the patient. Children heal exceptionally well, no matter where the laceration is. If on a child's face, I would sometimes take the sutures out in 3 days, and put steri-strips (sticky tape) over the wound.

Second, the location of the laceration. Healing is directly proportionate to blood supply. The head and neck have the best supply; suture removal was typically 5 to 7 days for lacs in this area. The extremeties have the worst blood supply. 10 to 14 days was usual for suture removal of lacs in the extremeties.

Infected, sutured lacs?? TAKE THE SUTURES OUT!! Explore the wound, and drain any pus pocket; culture the pus. Start patient on antibiotics, probably parenteral (IM or IV)at first. The reason why you take the sutures out is two fold. First, to drain the pus. A pus pocket or abscess is not affected by antibiotics. Second, if you leave an infected wound sutured, the tight closure can cause the infection to spread along the fascial planes, instead of letting the pus drain out of the wound. This can cause major problems, as the infection is now spread from the localized area.

Just remember, the best treatment is prevention!!

Walt Welch MD, Diplomate, American Board of Emergency Medicine
Mom always said a paper cut was the "worst" kind, but I've learned different.

Seriously though, I work in Hyperbaric Medicine with non-healing wounds. Paracelsus and Mr. Welch gave you textbook answers. Two thumbs up!
I sliced a very broad but very shallow gouge in my finger while trying to extract my Victorinox Craftsman from my front pocket while seated in a restaurant. I simply grabbed it in an obviously incorrect manner. I shall never grab it that way again.

It bled magnificently. All over. I didn't feel the pain until I had drops of blood on the table. Just like a paper cut (OUCH!) only worse. Didn't stop bleeding for quite a bit. It healed up completely in about two-three days.
Clean cuts seem to bleed more. Jagged cuts seem to coagulate faster. As for a scientific explanation, ya got me.