One of the unfortunate side effects of any surgery are the scars. Any cosmetic or plastic surgery is almost guaranteed to come with a scar or two, but why do some patients scar more than others? Is it the surgeon’s fault, or the patient’s, or both?! Is it anyone’s fault, or are there other things to consider? Are the different types of scars? How do you treat scars? Does massage help? What’s involved in scar revision surgery? How much does it cost? So many questions, so we asked Dr Patrick Briggs, Specialist Plastic Surgeon from Perth, WA to help us understand scars and scar revision surgery and answer our questions.
What are scars?
A scar is the fibrous tissue that develops to replace an area of skin that has received damage to the dermis, or deeper, thicker layer of skin from a cut, incision or wound. Dr Briggs explains. “Scars form by new collagen fibres growing to replace the damaged skin and is a natural and unavoidable part of any wound healing process. The new tissues that form will have a different appearance to the rest of your skin.” The degree of difference depends on many factors including:
- where the scar is located
- direction of the scar
- type and colour of the patient’s skin
- family history
- the patient’s ability to heal the scar
- surgeon’s skill and type of procedure/wound
According to the American NCBI (National Center for Biotechnology Information) people with darker skin complexions are about 15% more likely to develop keloid scars. They also suggest there are a variety of risk factors are linked to both hypertrophic scars and keloids including that a very common risk factor is the amount of tension placed on the wound and they often form on areas of the body that undergo the most skin tension such as the back, chest and upper arms.
Different types of scars
There are several different types of scars including:
- Widespread stretched
- Linear hypertrophic
- Widespread hypertrophic
- Minor keloid
- Major keloid
Keloid and Hypertrophic Scars
Many patients undergoing a cosmetic or plastic surgery procedure are concerned about keloid or hypertrophic scars. Dr Briggs says, “They both present as raised, red scars but hypertrophic scars are less severe and stay close to the actual wound, whereas keloid often spread past the initial incision and can even affect the patient’s movement.”
How do you treat overly obvious scarring?
There are several options for treating scarring including:
- Surgical scar revision – having a second surgery to fix the scarring from the first surgery isn’t something you want to jump into, but sometimes it’s the only way.
- Steroid injections – these are put directly into the scarred tissue but can be a long process and will need to be done several times over a period of several months.
- Laser treatment – make sure you go to an experienced practitioner or surgeon who knows what they are doing and has specific experience in treating scars.
- Topical treatments – gels, creams, etc.
What can you do to help reduce scarring from your initial surgery?
The best way to help reduce scarring is as soon as you have the initial surgery. There are several gels and creams on the market – we love the Stratpharma products – but you can also place silicone sheets onto the scarred area but they will have to be worn for a few months to have the best effect (the Stratpharma products all contain silicone). Some surgeons will suggest taping the area and compression garments are also said to help.
Scarring can also be caused by the initial wound becoming infected. This affects the tissue healing as it should and can result in scarring that might not have been so bad otherwise. Another reason to follow your surgeon’s instructions to the T when recovering from your surgery. Dr Briggs also reminds us that there are several stages of scar healing. “It’s important to be patient and let the natural healing process occur.”
Scarring is something you should consider when planning for any plastic or cosmetic surgery. Dr Briggs says it’s absolutely something your surgeon should talk to you about and “Definitely follow your surgeon’s instructions to minimise any scarring. Your surgeon should prepare you as to what to expect, but if you have any concerns at any stage you are best to seek the advice of your surgeon.”
To learn more about the Stratpharma scar gels and creams head to our shop. We have some special offers on their creams and gels at the moment so make sure you check them out. To learn more about Dr Briggs check out the blogs below, or you can visit his website here.