The adage, ‘even a plastic surgeon can’t erase without a trace’, is true. Post-surgery scars are inevitable but with some adequate care their prominence can be reduced substantially.
The goal of most people who were operated on will be to;
- prevent excessive scar tissue and
- to strive for the most satisfying cosmetic appearance.
Read on to learn about the various elements which, when combined, form the best treatment of scars after surgery.
Most post-surgery scars are hypertrophic. They are swollen, and generally red or purple colored. Keloids are a type of hypertrophic scars that grow outside the original wound area (nodules).
Optimal over-the-counter treatment of such scar tissue may consist of;
- pressure therapy,
- topical silicones,
- creams with certain proven ingredients such as vitamin C and medical honey,
- oral vitamin and mineral supplementation,
Surgical Paper Tape
Adhesive tape is often placed over a wound. It keeps the incision wound closed and minimizes shear forces on it. It is most commonly applied after removal of sutures or dressings. The goal is to prevent excessive scar tissue from forming as well as prevent stretching of the wound.
It’s generally recommended to keep wear the paper tape for about 6 weeks or until the wound has closed (or sometimes even longer).
(Hypoallergenic) tape supports the scar by reducing tension on the wound edges which minimizes the risk on widened and less favorable scarring.
Steristrips or Micropore tape are well known names used for this purpose.
Additional benefit of taping the cut is that it keeps scabbing soft and slight. (It’s recommended to prevent scabs and keep wounds moist for better wound healing and less scarring.)
Before the benefits of silicone sheeting became clear the standard in treating burn and surgical scars was pressure therapy. Compression garments are used to apply a constant pressure.
Compression has demonstrated to reduce itch and pain, flatten raised scars, or prevent their formation. Especially on keloids the effects are minimal:
Pressure may theoretically break up collagen bundles and soften the keloid mass; however, therapy must be instituted for long periods (>23 h/d for 6 mo) before significant effect can be achieved. (1)
Nowadays compression garments are generally applied to enhance the healing/ recovery process. They are mainly used after certain specific procedures such as tummy tuck surgery, liposuction, (male) breast reduction, face lifts, thigh lifts, c-sections, and buttock augmentation. Read more about the best c-section scar treatments here.
Wearing post-op compression garments;
- improves blood circulation,
- reduces bruising and swelling,
- reliefs pain and discomfort,
- supports new body contours,
- reduces scarring.
Ask your doctor if you could benefit from wearing one following operation.
Silicone Gel Sheeting
Since 1982 silicone gel sheets have been successfully used in the management of hypertrophic scars.
Although pressure therapy is still used in, especially, burn care, silicones have become the standard modality in most hospitals, burn centers, and other medical institutions.
Silicone gel softens and reduces scars in a shorter time-period than pressure therapy. (2)
Silicones are non-invasive which means there’s practically no risk on undesired side effects (some people may experience minor skin irritation).
It is therefore that its use is often recommended in favor of more invasive treatments such as steroid injections, cryotherapy (freezing scar tissue), and corrective surgery.
There is a wide range of brands on the consumer market and some brands offer pre-shaped sheets made specifically to cover certain surgical incisions such as c-section and breast reduction scars. A popular, high-quality brand is ScarAway .
Massage helps break down excessive collagen that may cause problems such as restriction of movement when located near and attached to joints or underlying tissue.
Such problematic scarring commonly occurs after appendectomy, cesarean sections, and some other operations.
Massage shows to make scar tissue more pliable, and supple. Other types of physical therapy such as physiotherapy and stretching may reduce the discomfort of contracted scars.
Massage stimulates the degradation of hard and non-pliable collagen mass. Also the attachment of inflexible scar tissue to joints and ligaments can be reduced or prevented.
Vitamin and Mineral Supplements To Promote Scar Healing After Surgery
Arnica and Bromelain are two of the most popular supplements used for the treatment of scars after surgery. Sufficient protein intake is also essential since proteins are the building blocks of our body.
It is important to avoid vitamin C, vitamin E, and protein deficiency since this will obstruct wound healing. Most people who maintain a balanced diet will not not be deficient in these.
Supplementation of vitamin A, vitamin C, and B, zinc, arginine, niacin, glutamine, and glucosamine prior to and after surgery is thought to benefit wound and scar healing.
Special multinutrient formulas are available to enhance healing and obtain better cosmetic results following plastic and general surgery. Here’s more general info on how surgery supplements aid post op recovery.
Post-surgery supplements provide a balanced selection of vital vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and amino acids that have been shown to be essential for preparing the body for surgery and for helping one have a faster recovery.
Honey-based Wound Dressings
Decent wound care is crucial to minimizing scar tissue. Wounds that heal faster will generally scar less.
Wounds in which the healing process is disturbed or delayed (e.g. by infections) are more likely to leave bigger, more noticeable scars. There’s also a greater tendency for hypertrophic / keloid scar formation.
An in popularity growing wound care treatment are manuka honey sheets and creams. Medihoney dressings by Derma Sciences , the medical variant of this type of honey, has shown to cure the most severe, even life-threatening, wounds. These sheets are all natural, FDA approved medical devices that are scientifically proven effective in accelerating the wound healing process. Here’s more information on Medihoney dressings.
Some studies show advantages of combining various treatments. In a clinical trial undertaken to assess the effectiveness in preventing hypertrophic scars when several scar treatments were combined it was concluded;
The multimodality approach to scar control showed significant benefits in the patient groups tested in this series.(3)
The treatments examined were focused on reducing tension on the scar, hydration, collagen maturation and controlled inflammation. Tape was impregnated with a combination of agents providing an occlusive dressing. Among other combinations, tape and gel were compared with tape alone.
Questions, Remarks, Experiences?
Do you have any questions, want to share your experiences, or have any remarks to make? Don’t hesitate to drop your comment below. I have been there myself and will respond in a timely manner.