New device 'that can reduce surgical scar'

New device 'that can reduce surgical scar'

Results of animal tests and of an early clinical trial of the dressing were "stunning", Michael Longaker of Stanford University, who led the research, said. "It was a surprisingly effective treatment."

After sutures are removed, the edges of a healing incision are pulled in different directions by the taut, surrounding skin, causing scar tissue to thicken and spread.
The novel dressing eliminates this tension and hence a considerable amount of scarring, according to the findings published in the 'Annals of Surgery' journal.

The dressing is made of a thin and elastic silicone plastic that is stretched over the incision after sutures have been removed. The dressing sticks to the skin with the help of an adhesive. As it contracts, it provides uniform compression across the wound.

Scar tissue, which is less flexible than regular skin, can cause functional problems, such as limiting motion. Hair does not grow in a scar, and it doesn't have sweat glands.

In addition, scars do not look like regular skin: They are often raised and have a pinkish hue. Many people consider them unattractive. Yet they are an unavoidable side effect of surgery, say the scientists.

"The device also seemed to promote regenerative-like repair rather than scar formation," say the scientists.

Following animal tests, the scientists tested the device on nine female patients who had undergone abdominoplasties. Given the quantity of tissue removed during this elective surgery, a tremendous amount of tension occurred across the wound after closure.

They deliberately chose to test the dressing on incisions closed with high tension: If the dressing could reduce scarring in such cases, it would surely work on any other kind of incision.

One side of the abdomen-wide incision on each patient was treated with the stress-shielding dressing; the other half was not. A panel of three plastic surgeons unaffiliated with the research, as well as a panel of three people not in the medical profession, acted as judges.

On a 100-point scale, the lay panel scored the appearance of stress-shielded wounds an average of 13.2 points higher than the control wounds. The expert panel scored the scar appearance of the treated incisions 39.2 points higher.

In both of these analyses, the difference between the treated side and the control side were highly significant, the researchers said.

"Larger clinical trials are being planned to include greater ethnic diversity within the patient population and to determine the optimal range of stress-shielding forces for anatomic region and dimension-specific wounds," say the scientists.