Is Plastic Surgery Of My Scars Worth It?
The improvement in the appearance of established scars may be possible by surgical revision. Multiple scar revision techniques are available including excision and rearrangement, laser therapies, and mechanical sanding. Scar revision requires patience and a commitment of time to see the final reeults.
The large number of over-the-counter scar treatments is a good indicator of the public's interest in scar concerns. Contrary to popular opinion, topical scar treatments can not make much a difference and surgical scar revision is needed for the most problematic scars.
As a general rule, there are no specific scar creams or ointments that will make any significant improvement in an established scar. Topical scar treatments do have a role to play in early scars but not in older scars. Only the concept of some form of scar revision has any hope of improvement at this point. Scar revision can consist of a variety of treatments including excision and rearrangement (cutting out and reclosing), laser therapies, and mechanical methods of dermbrasion or sanding. All are not equal, meaning that each has a specific role to play and can be beneficial if used in the right kind of scar.
There are several key points that anyone considering scar revision needs to appreciate. First and foremost, no method of scar revision can completely erase a scar's appearance. The skin that the scar has replaced will never be normal.....ever. Scar revision is about improvement, not perfection or complete elimination of the scar. As a plastic surgeon, we are not magicians and have no magical wand. The important question before undergoing scar revision then is....how much improvemennt can be had and is it worth the effort. That is where the value of a consultation with a plastic surgeon is.......ascertaining how much scar improvement may be achieved.
Secondly, there is no single method of scar revision that will work for all scars. Much ballyhoo goes on about the use of lasers, but quite frankly, lasers are not the most common method of treating scars. They may seem like an 'eraser' but their use is restricted to treating early or persistent redness of scars and some light skin resurfacing of scars. Both of these laser effects produce mild degrees of improvement but it is not effective for many types sof scar problems. By far, excision and primary closure (cutting the scar out and reclosing it) or excision and tissue rearrangement (cutting the scar out and realigning it through geometric rearrangements such as z- or w-plasties) is most common. Scar excision is probably the most effective method of scar improvement, if the scar problem permits, as it is removing the scar first and creating a fresh wound. Dermabrasion and deeper laser resurfacing may be helpful for wide scars that are raised that do not lend themselves to excision.
Lastly, scar revision, no matter what method is used, takes time to see the final results. I tell patients that scar revision is a process that usually involves takes a step back (to allow healing) in the hope that in the long term you have jumped two steps forward and it looks better. Scar revision results are not always predictable and some leap of faith is necessary if one makles the effort. Scar revision reaults take time to see improvement often at least 6 months after the procedure.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr Barry Eppley, board-certified plastic surgeon of Indianapolis, operates a private practice at Health in two suburban Indianapolis locations. He writes a daily blog on topics and trends in plastic surgery at http://www.exploreplasticsurgery.com