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Usually, a splinter is fairly obvious. The person feels pain, and a sense that a foreign body is embedded in the skin. Often, the individual can see the splinter in or under the skin. The person may have only a small flow of blood or no bleeding at all. They may or may not be able to feel the splinter or a tip of it. Sometimes, the splinter is not noticed at all until an infection develops. Then, the area becomes red, swollen, warm, and tender.
When to Seek Medical Care for a Splinter
Most splinters are easily removed at home without complications. On occasion, the person may need to see a doctor.
For serious bleeding or complications from infection associated with splinters or deep puncture wounds, go to a hospital's emergency department.
Most splinters that are visible do not require any diagnostic tests. For deeply embedded splinters, ultrasound, CT scan, or MRI (special types of imaging studies that provide better visualization of soft tissues) may be needed. Very large splinters may also require a CT scan or MRI if there is a possibility the splinter may have penetrated a bone, tendon, or a vital area. X-rays may aid in locating metallic splinters and occasionally glass as well.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/31/2016
Clifford Spanierman, MD
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Soft tissue foreign bodies are frequently a result of penetrating or abrasive trauma and can result in substantial patient discomfort, deformity, complications involving localized and systemic infection, and further trauma during removal.