CPR First Aid

How to Treat a Contusion: Is it a Wound?

How to Treat a Contusion: Is it a Wound?

A contusion also called a bruise, is a type of wound. It is caused by blunt force to the skin and tissues below. The damage to the blood vessels causes blood to leak into the tissues below the skin. This area will start to swell and turn purple or black. Treatment for a contusion depends on how severe it is. Minor contusions can be treated at home with rest, ice, compression and elevation. More severe contusions may require medical treatment.

What is the Meaning of a Contusion?

A contusion is a type of hematoma of tissue in which capillaries and sometimes small venules are damaged by trauma, allowing blood to seep, pool, and clot in the interstitial spaces. A bruise can be painful and tender to the touch. In some cases, a bruise can indicate a more serious underlying medical condition.

Is a Contusion a Serious Injury?

There are different degrees of severity when it comes to contusions. First-degree bruises, being the least severe, only involve damage to the capillaries, while second-degree bruises involve both capillary and venule damage. Third-degree bruises involve damage to both small and large vessels, as well as the surrounding tissue.

Severe Contusion

In severe cases, a contusion can result in an open wound, known as a laceration, or a bone fracture. A severe contusion is a serious injury to the tissues and can cause damage to the skin, muscles, and bones. Hematomas can form.

What is a Hematoma?

Severe contusions can lead to the formation of a hematoma, which is a pocket of blood that forms outside of the blood vessels. A hematoma can put pressure on the surrounding tissue and nerves, which can cause pain, numbness, and tingling. If a hematoma is large enough, it can also compress blood vessels, which can lead to tissue death (necrosis).

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Signs and Symptoms

The most common symptom of a contusion is pain. Depending on the severity, other symptoms include:

  • swelling
  • tenderness
  • redness
  • warmth to the touch
  • discolouration of the skin (purple, blue, green, yellow)
  • heaviness or aching feeling in the injured area
  • loss of range of motion in the affected area

Causes and Risks of Contusion

Contusions can have many different potential origins, but the most frequent one is localised trauma. This can happen from a fall, a car accident, or any other type of impact. Some additional factors are:

Bleeding disorders

People with conditions that affect their ability to clot blood are more susceptible to developing bruises.


Certain medications, such as blood thinners, can also make people more likely to develop bruises.

Infants and young children

Their skin is thinner and more delicate than that of adults, making them more susceptible to bruising.

Older Adults

As people age, their skin becomes thinner and loses some of its elasticity. This makes it easier for blood vessels to break and cause bruising.

Exposure to cold

Cold temperatures can cause the blood vessels to constrict, which can lead to bruising.

Nutritional deficiencies

People who are deficient in vitamins C, K, and B12 are more likely to bruise easily.

People with certain medical conditions

Conditions that affect the blood vessels, such as diabetes and vascular disease, can increase the risk of bruising.

People who participate in contact sports

Activities that involve physical contact are more likely to result in bruises.

People who have had recent surgery

Surgical procedures can damage blood vessels and lead to bruising.

Can a Contusion Cause Nerve Damage?

If the intensity of the trauma is significant to compress or stretch the nerve, a contusion may result in nerve injury. In extreme circumstances, a contusion can cause total loss of sensation in the area that is injured. Getting checked by a doctor is imperative so that the extent of the damage can be determined and treated accordingly.

Contusion Treatment

Treatment for a contusion typically involves the RICE method:

  • Rest: Avoid activity that causes pain or further injury.
  • Ice: Apply ice to the injured area for 20 minutes at a time, several times a day.
  • Compression: Use an elastic bandage to help reduce swelling.
  • Elevation: Keep the injured area elevated above the level of your heart to help reduce swelling.

Over-the-counter pain medications, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, can also be used to help relieve pain. If the pain is severe or if there are signs of an open wound or bone fracture, seek medical attention immediately.

What to do if the Patient has a Contusion?

Most contusions can be treated at home with simple self-care measures.

Self-care measures for a contusion include:

  • Follow RICE
  • Taking over-the-counter pain medications such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen to relieve pain

In Severe Cases

Most contusions will heal on their own within a few weeks. However, more severe contusions may require medical treatment and can take longer to heal. Tests and treatment may involve, but are not limited to:

  • x-rays or other imaging tests to assess the extent of the injury
  • blood tests to check for internal bleeding
  • intravenous fluids to treat or prevent dehydration
  • pain medication
  • surgery to repair damaged blood vessels or tissues

 If you suspect that you, another person, or something else has suffered a severe contusion, it is crucial to seek medical attention right away. The sooner the patient is seen by a medical professional, the better their chances of making a full recovery. Early diagnosis and treatment can help speed up the healing process and prevent further complications.

Complications Associated with Severe Contusions

If a contusion is left untreated, it can lead to complications such as:

  • Infection
  • Nerve damage
  • Muscle weakness
  • Joint stiffness
  • Loss of function in the affected area

Severe contusions can also lead to life-threatening conditions such as internal bleeding and shock.

How to Prevent a Contusion?

You may stop bruising or contusions from happening in a number of different ways. These techniques are:

Wearing protective gear

This is especially important if you participate in contact sports. Wearing padding on your knees, elbows, and other vulnerable areas can help to cushion blows and reduce the risk of bruising.

Avoiding injury

Obviously, the best way to prevent bruising is to avoid injury altogether. Be careful when participating in activities and always use caution when handling equipment or tools.

Using ice

If you do suffer a minor injury, applying ice to the area can help to reduce swelling and pain. Ice should be applied for 20 minutes at a time, and can be repeated every two hours as needed.

Elevating the injured area

If you have a bruise on your leg or arm, elevating the limb can help to reduce swelling. Try to keep the affected area elevated above the level of your heart.

Wearing loose clothing

Wearing clothing that is tight or constrictive can increase the risk of bruising. Loose, comfortable clothing is best.

Taking care of your skin

Eating a healthy diet and getting enough vitamins and minerals can help to keep your skin strong and less susceptible to injury. In addition, drinking plenty of water will keep your skin hydrated and less likely to bruise.

In conclusion, bruises or contusions are among the most frequent types of injuries sustained by active children and adults. This can be avoided with extra care and added protection. If this is encountered in the workplace or anywhere else, first aid knowledge and skills will be very useful in preventing further harm.

If you are looking for a first aid course at Level 1/174 Gilles St, Adelaide 5000, contact CPR First Aid for more information.

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