Minimize a Scar
Scar revision surgery will attempt to minimize a scar so that it is less conspicuous and blends in with the surrounding skin tone and texture.
The degree of improvement that can be achieved with scar revision will depend on the severity of your scarring, and the type, size and location of the scar. In some cases, a single technique may provide significant improvement. However, our plastic surgeons may recommend a combination of scar revision techniques to achieve the best results. This procedure can often be done in the office under local anesthesia but a consultation is needed to determine which anesthesia method will be best.
What is scar revision?
Scar revision is a plastic surgery performed to improve the condition or appearance of a scar anywhere on your body. A scar revision will also restore function, and corrects skin changes (disfigurement) caused by an injury, wound, poor healing, or previous surgery.
The different types of scars include:
Discoloration or surface irregularities and other more subtle scars can be cosmetically improved by surgery or other treatments recommended by your plastic surgeon. These types of scars do not impair function or cause physical discomfort and include acne scars as well as scars resulting from minor injury and prior surgical incisions.
Hypertropic scars are thick clusters of scar tissue that develop directly at a wound site. They are often raised, red and/or uncomfortable and may become wider over time. They can be hyperpigmented (darker in color) or hypopigmented (lighter in color).
Keloids are larger than hypertropic scars. They can be painful or itchy, and may also pucker. They extend beyond the edges of an original wound or incision. Keloids can occur anywhere on your body, but they develop more commonly where there is little underlying fatty tissue, such as on the face, neck, ears, chest or shoulders.
Contractures are scars that restrict movement due to skin and underlying tissue that pull together during healing. They can occur when there is a large amount of tissue loss, such as after a burn. Contractures also can form where a wound crosses a joint, restricting movement of the fingers, elbows, knees or neck.
The type of scar you have will determine the appropriate techniques your plastic surgeon will use to improve your scar.
What are the steps of a scar revision procedure?
Medications are administered for your comfort during the surgical procedures. The choices include local anesthesia, intravenous sedation and general anesthesia. Your doctor will recommend the best choice for you.
The degree of improvement that can be achieved with scar revision will depend on the severity of your scarring, and the type, size and location of the scar. In some cases, a single technique may provide significant improvement. However, your plastic surgeon may recommend a combination of scar revision techniques to achieve the best results.
Topical treatments, such as gels, tapes or external compression, can help in wound closure and healing, or to reduce the ability of skin to produce irregular pigment. These products may be used to treat existing surface scars and discoloration, and to aid in the healing of scar revision procedures.
Injectable treatments may also be used. Dermal filler can be used to fill depressed or concave scars. Depending on the injectable substance used and your particular scar conditions, results may last from three months to several years. Therapy must be repeated to maintain results. Another form of injection therapy uses steroidal-based compounds to reduce collagen formation and can alter the appearance, size and texture of raised scar tissue.
Surface treatments are most often used for cosmetic improvement of scars. These methods can soften surface irregularities and reduce uneven pigmentation. Surface treatments are a controlled means of either mechanically removing the top layers of skin or changing the nature of tissue. These treatment options include:
- Dermabrasion is a mechanical polishing of the skin.
- Laser or light therapy causes changes to the surface of the skin that allow new, healthy skin to form at the scar site.
- Chemical peel solutions penetrate the skin's surface to soften irregularities in texture and color.
- Skin bleaching agents are medications applied topically to lighten the skin.
Sometimes for deeper scars an incision is needed to surgically remove the old scar
Some scars require layered closure. Layered closure is often used where excision extends to tissue below the skin surface or in areas with a high degree of movement. The first step, or layer, requires sub-dermal closure (below the skin surface) with absorbable or non-removable sutures. Layers of closure continue to build, concluding with closure of the remaining surface wound.
Advanced techniques in scar revision include complex flap closures and W-plasty or Z-plasty techniques. Flap closures may reposition a scar so that it is less conspicuous or improve flexibility where contracture has restricted mobility.
Pharmaceutical tissue substitutes may be used if ample healthy tissue is not present for closure of a scar excision. This is more likely with revision of severe burn scars.
What should I expect during my scar revision recovery?
- Progress and healing
The initial healing phase of a surgical scar revision may include localized swelling, discoloration or discomfort and may take 1 to 2 weeks. Healing will continue for several weeks and as the new scar heals it will slowly refine and fade. With dermabrasion, chemical peel or laser resurfacing, you will experience similar conditions at the treated area, in addition to overall sensitivity.
- The results will be long-lasting
The final results of your scar revision surgery will be long-lasting, however it may take several months for your final results to become apparent and in some cases it may take a year for the new scar to fully heal and fade.
The practice of medicine and surgery is not an exact science. Although good results are expected, there are no guarantees; and in some situations, it may not be possible to achieve optimal results with a single surgical procedure and another surgery may be necessary.
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