Smarter Decisions,
Better Care

UpToDate synthesizes the most recent medical information into evidence-based practical recommendations clinicians trust to make the right point-of-care decisions.

  • Rigorous editorial process: Evidence-based treatment recommendations
  • World-Renowned physician authors: over 5,100 physician authors and editors around the globe
  • Innovative technology: integrates into the workflow; access from EMRs

Choose from the list below to learn more about subscriptions for a:

Subscribers log in here

Assessment and management of lip lacerations


Lacerations continue to be a leading cause of emergency department visits. Minor wound management should reduce the likelihood of infection and be performed to achieve minimal scarring [1]. It is especially critical that lip lacerations are repaired correctly to preserve the cosmetic appearance and functionality of the lip. When interacting with people, our vision is immediately directed towards the eyes and lips highlighting the aesthetic importance of lip structure. The lip also serves a critical role in speech articulation, food ingestion, and tactile sensation. Most lacerations can be repaired by the emergency clinician; however, there are rare circumstances where specialist referral may be necessary.

When evaluating trauma to the face and lip care should be taken to evaluate the patient for other traumatic injuries and the clinician should follow Advanced Trauma Life Support (ATLS) protocol. The patient should undergo primary assessment of airway, breathing, circulation, disability and neurologic function prior to secondary survey for additional injuries.


The lip is a unique structure in the body and in cross section is composed of three layers: the mucosal layer (within the oral cavity), the middle muscular layer (orbicularis oris muscle), and the outer mucosal layer consisting of the wet vermillion (internal oral) and the dry vermillion (external oral) or the “red lip” (figure 1). The cosmetic outline of the lip where the facial skin meets the vermillion is referred to as the vermillion border. Aesthetically the vermillion border is crucial as light reflects at this juncture and misalignment by 1 mm will cause a noticeable scar.

The blood supply to the lip arises from the superior and inferior labial arteries which are branches of the facial artery (figure 2).

The lip is innervated by the infraorbital and inferior alveolar nerves which arise from the trigeminal nerve (cranial nerve V) (figure 3).


Subscribers log in here

To continue reading this article, you must log in with your personal, hospital, or group practice subscription. For more information or to purchase a personal subscription, click below on the option that best describes you:
Literature review current through: Nov 2014. | This topic last updated: May 7, 2014.
The content on the UpToDate website is not intended nor recommended as a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your own physician or other qualified health care professional regarding any medical questions or conditions. The use of this website is governed by the UpToDate Terms of Use ©2014 UpToDate, Inc.