There are always trade offs in life.  When it comes to plastic surgery, a flatter stomach or more shapely breasts or a younger looking face comes with the trade off of one or two scars.  Most cosmetic surgery patients are willing to make this trade, but of course, they would like the scar to be as small and faint as possible.

I’ve written before about how to properly care for your new scars and the importance of continuing your scar care for a full year after surgery.  Many patients want to know about anti-scar products and if they really work.  My short (and confusing) answer is – well, yes and no.

Once your skin has grown over the incision, which is also called re-epithelialization, silicone gel and hydrocortisone cream are the mainstays of scar prevention.  Look at any anti-scar products in the pharmacy or at a surgical supply store, and you’ll see that the ingredients are pretty much the same.

Silicone bandages, Kelo-cote, Scar Guard and other brand names definitely work to help scars look better up to 6 to 12 months after your procedure.  Plus, they’re pretty cheap and painless.  So why don’t patients see more satisfying results?

Well, the simple reason is because it’s a pain in the rear to actually apply these products and use them EVERY DAY.

Trust me.  I talk to patients all of the time and tell them to use these products, and they never wear them religiously every day for one month, let alone for 8 to 12 months.  The success of these anti-scar products truly depends on consistent daily usage for up to one year.

It was with some interest then that I read an article this week about researchers at Stanford University’s School of Medicine who have developed a special wound dressing product aimed at significantly reducing the appearance of scars and scar tissue.

One problem with scar healing has always been the surrounding taut skin and body motion pulling the incision in different directions, causing friction and a darker and larger scar.

This new product is a thin, flexible piece of silicone backed with adhesive that is stretched at a 90-degree angle over the incision.  A special applicator affixes it to the skin where it then contracts to provide counter-tension, taking the pressure off the wound.  Patients change the dressing weekly for 8 to 12 weeks.

The only real novelty of this new dressing is that it is applying counter-tension to the scar.  Specifically, the patented device is able to stick and generate enough counter-tension to actually stay on without driving patients crazy.  Plastic surgeons try to do the same thing now, but no one has actually invented a device or bandage that does it.

Of course, there will always be factors that determine the success of a patient’s scar care.  They are:

  • age of the scar
  • wound healing capacity of the patient
  • ethnic background of the patient
  • how much tension the scar is under when it’s surgically closed
  • how much counter-tension the device needs to generate
  • how much the scar under the skin surface is allowed to move

With only 9 human participants, the preliminary study was not large enough to be considered scientifically significant.  They did report good to great results, but the results did vary, despite the fact that the device is always going to generate the same amount of tension.

So, this implies:

  • the patient’s individual background affects the scar result
  • how well you apply the device, or not, affects the scar result
  • the amount of tension created by the device probably varies, based on how it’s applied
  • different scars need different amounts of tension

Plus, we are back to the same old problem of patients actually wearing the silicone bandage with the correct amount of tension 24/7 for 8 to 12 weeks.  Most people are too busy or too annoyed or simply having too much fun with their new bodies to make that kind of commitment to their scar.


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