Our Patient of the Week was 29-years-old and had to be taken down by the police with a Taser (which stands for Thomas A. Swift Electronic Rifle.) He had a long history of psychiatric problems. That night he had been drinking and maybe doing drugs before he slashed his scrotum with a razor. The paramedics reported he was talking “in several languages” but he would not talk to me.
He had very bizarre behavior and had to be tied to the gurney with leather restraints on his ankles and wrists. He made it very difficult to get a good look at his scrotum but I was able to see he had several cuts through the skin with no evidence of any injury to underlying important structures. The bleeding had pretty much stopped.
My evaluation included confirming that he was, indeed, known to be crazy and making sure he was not in need of treatment for any metabolic problems. When I offered to sew up his scrotum, he refused so the nurse dressed it as best she could.
In the mean time, the police who had been called to the scene had learned he was wanted on several warrants so they placed him under arrest. They took him and his dressed scrotum to off to jail.
Not long after he left, the emergency department charge nurse told me she had taken a call from the nurse at jail saying the patient’s scrotum was bleeding and they were sending him back. Though I was pretty sure he didn’t need to come back, I was not too surprised that a nurse at the jail wouldn’t be comfortable with a bleeding, crazy scrotum.
When he returned, he had a little blood in the dressing and no active bleeding. This confirmed my impression that he would have been fine just staying where he was. This time he let me put some stitches in the cuts. Truth be told, it was mostly for sake of the jail nurses.
We have such a focus on first aid in our society that people have a hard time believing that no cut has to be sutured. We do suturing for two reasons. One is to make for a smaller scar. I would say it was not too important in this case. The second is allow the cut to heal up faster which I am sure was of some benefit to him. But, the fact is that, given enough time, ALL cuts will eventually heal. We often hear people worried that if the cut is not sewn, it will lead to infection. Again, the truth is that suturing a cut actually increases the risk of infection.