Wound Classification


Open wounds can be classified according to the object that caused the wound:

Wound TypeDescription / Cause
Incisions*Caused by a clean, sharp-edged object such as a knife.
Lacerations*Irregular tear-like wounds caused by blunt trauma.
Abrasions (grazes)Superficial wounds in which the epidermis is scraped off. Abrasions are often caused by a sliding fall onto a rough surface.
Skin TearsInjuries caused by friction, where the skin is sheared. There may be some or no skin loss.
Puncture WoundsCaused by an object puncturing the skin eg nail.
Penetration WoundsCaused by an object such as a knife entering and coming out from the skin.
Gunshot WoundsCaused by a bullet or similar projectile driving into or through the body. There may be two wounds, one at the site of entry and one at the site of exit, generally referred to as a "through-and-through."


*Both lacerations and incisions may appear linear (regular) or stellate (irregular). The term laceration is commonly misused in reference to incisions.


Closed wounds have fewer categories, but are just as dangerous as open wounds. The types of closed wounds are:

Wound TypeDescription / Cause
ContusionMore commonly known as bruises, caused by a blunt force trauma that damages tissue under the skin.
HaematomaCaused by damage to a blood vessel that in turn causes blood to collect under the skin.
Crush InjuryCaused by a great or extreme amount of force applied over a long period of time


  • Acute or traumatic wounds are the result of injuries that disrupt the tissue.
  • Chronic wounds are those that are caused by a relatively slow process that leads to tissue damage. Chronic wounds include pressure, venous, and diabetic ulcers. Typically, an insufficiency in the circulation or other systemic support of the tissue causes it to fail and disintegrate. Infection then takes hold of the site and becomes a chronic abscess. Once the infection hits a critical point, it can spread locally or become systemic (sepsis).