Splinter removal

Am Fam Physician. 2003 Jun 15;67(12):2557-62.


Splinter injuries are common, but larger and deeper splinters are often difficult and painful to remove at home. These splinters often present as a foreign body embedded in the superficial or subcutaneous soft tissues. Whenever possible, reactive objects like wood, thorns, spines, and vegetative material should be removed immediately, before inflammation or infection occurs. Superficial horizontal splinters are generally visible on inspection or easily palpated. A horizontal splinter is exposed completely by incising the skin over the length of the long axis of the splinter, and removed by lifting it out with forceps. A subungual splinter may be removed by cutting out a V-shaped piece of the nail. The point of the V is at the proximal tip of the splinter, which is grasped and removed, taking particular care not to push the splinter further into the nail bed. Removal of an elusive splinter can be challenging and may require the use of imaging modalities for better localization. Deeper splinters, especially those close to important structures such as nerves, tendons, blood vessels, or vital organs, should be referred for removal.

MeSH terms

  • Foreign Bodies / classification
  • Foreign Bodies / complications
  • Foreign Bodies / diagnosis*
  • Foreign Bodies / therapy*
  • Foreign-Body Reaction / etiology
  • Humans
  • Nails
  • Wound Healing