Acute wounds are surgical or trauma wounds that heal in an orderly and timely manner, generally within a 4-6 week period.

There are different types of acute wounds:

  • Abscesses
  • Burns
  • Perianal wounds
  • Skin tears
  • Surgical wounds


An abscess is a localised collection of pus in any anatomical site that may be associated with sinus (cavity) formation or sinus tracking.


A burn is a wound caused by thermal, chemical or electrical trauma. Damage to the skin from a burn is classified by the depth of the burn. The classifications are:

  • Superficial – damage to the epithelium and presents as pink, red and painful
  • Superficial partial – epidermis and superficial (papillary) dermis is destroyed. It is very painful, often blistered, pink, moist and blanching
  • Deep partial – damage to epidermis and reticular dermis. Appears mottled pink or white, may blister and have slow or no capillary refill. The burn may be dry after two days and be uncomfortable rather than painful
  • Full thickness – involves damage to the epidermis, dermis and may include fat. No blanching occurs and the burn may be mottled, dry, translucent, black or pale in appearance. Full thickness scalds may have a red non-blanching appearance

Perianal wounds

Perianal wounds are wounds in the anal area which may include:

  • Rectal fistula
  • Fissure-in-ano
  • Rectal sinus
  • Pilonidal sinus
  • Perianal abscess

Skin Tears

A skin tear is defined as “the result of shearing, friction or blunt trauma that causes separation of skin layers. The subsequent wounds are partial or full-thickness depending upon the degree of tissue damage” (Le Blanc et al., 2008).

Skin tears are the most common wound found amongst the elderly particularly individuals aged 65 years and older. A skin tear can occur anywhere on the body but most commonly on the arm or leg.

Surgical Wounds

A surgical wound is the result of a cut through the skin made during an operation. There are different types of surgical wounds and they include:

  • Incisions – a surgical cut made by a sterile instrument. A surgically created opening in the skin that results in a cavity or sinus. Healing occurs by secondary intention or delayed primary intention
  • Dehiscence – partial or complete separation of the wound union that results in an open cavity and has or previously had:
    • Sutures
    • Staples or
    • Surgical tape in place