Scarring is one of the downsides of many plastic surgery procedures. The American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) noted that scars are inevitable when it comes to going under the knife; furthermore, it can be hard to predict what a scar will look like prior to surgery. The ASPS said, “Poor healing may contribute to scars that are obvious, unsightly or disfiguring. Even a wound that heals well can result in a scar that affects your appearance.” (ASPS 1)
Now, a study just published by Stanford University researchers could be very welcome news for surgeons and patients alike. Dr. Geoffrey Gurtner and his team have created a special bandage that immobilizes the skin around a surgical wound as it heals, minimizing the pulling and tugging that happens during normal daily activities. The bandage is constructed of silicone and Teflon sheets. Dubbing it a skin “cast,” an article on the NewScientist website explaied, “The bandage holds the skin taut at the edges of the wound, absorbing the everyday stresses that would normally tug and twist the healing wound.” (Jabr 1)
The Stanford team tested the new bandage first on a species of pigs whose skin is much like that of humans. Measured against control groups, Gurtner and his colleagues noticed that the scar area was 6- to 9-fold smaller on the animals with the new bandage, and the formation of fibrous tissue was decreased. (Gurtner 1)
Next, the team tested nine human volunteers who underwent abdominoplasty. These patients agreed to have half their surgical wound dressed with traditional bandages, and half with Gurtner’s new immobilizing bandage. Scars were examined 8 and 12 months post-op by plastic surgeons and lay people. Both groups agreed that the silicone/Teflon bandage improved scar appearance. (Jabr 1)
More research needs to be performed on this new approach, and it’s certain to happen. Scars have long been the bugaboo of plastic surgery, perhaps even holding some patients back from taking the plunge. It’s common to read about people weighing both sides of the argument before making a decision. Google “trade skin for scars” and you’ll see.
Nowhere is the decision more difficult, nor scars more impactful, than for post-weight loss patients. Many times, these men and women who have worked hard to improve their health and physique are left with rolls and folds of redundant skin. Like the nine patients in Gurtner’s study, many need at least a tummy tuck, and the abdominal scar that results has historically been rather prominent for most patients.
When weight loss patients go on to have additional body contouring procedures, they may elect to also have thigh lifts and arm lifts. Scarring in these highly visible areas is obviously a factor to consider when electing to have surgery.
Gurtner and his colleagues’ potential breakthrough obviously has applications outside plastic surgery. Patients undergoing heart surgery, orthopedic surgery and other invasive procedures will also benefit from new ways to reduce scarring like this one. Stay tuned to hear more in the months and years to come.
American Society of Plastic Surgeons. “Scar Revision: Minimize a Scar.” Thousands of Member Surgeons, One High Standard. Web. May 27, 2011.
Jabr, Ferris. “Skin ‘cast’ helps wounds heal with minimal scarring.” NewScientist Health. May 27, 2011. Web. May 27, 2011.
Gurtner, Geoffrey C. et. al. “Improving Cutaneous Scar by Controlling the Mechanical Environment: Large Animal and Phase I Studies.” Annals of Surgery. May 19, 2011. Web. May 27, 2011. http://journals.lww.com/annalsofsurgery/Abstract/publishahead/Improving_Cutaneous_Scar_by_Controlling_the.99120.aspx
Reviewed May 31, 2011
Edited by Alison Stanton