New Device Could Reduce Surgical Scarring

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Over 50 million incisions are created during operations in the United States every year. Stanford University researchers have developed a new wound dressing that will be able to greatly reduce scar tissue caused by surgical incisions. Their research was published early this week in the Annals of Surgery.

Typically, after stitches are removed, the edges of a healing incision are pulled in different directions by the stiff, surrounding skin, causing scar tissue to thicken and spread. The new dressing, which the authors refer to as a “stress-shielding device,” removes this tension and, as a result, leaves less scarring. It is made of a thin and elastic silicone plastic that is stretched over the incision after the removal of sutures. An adhesive helps the dressing stick to the skin, and, as it contracts, it provides consistent compression across the wound.

The researchers tested the device on nine women who had recently undergone tummy tuck procedures. Because there is so much tissue removed during this surgery, there is a lot of tension that occurs across the wound after closure.

Tummy tucks generally leave wide, thick scars. The doctors treated one side of the incision on each patient with the stress-shielding dressing, while the other half was not. The researches found that the difference between the treated side and the control side were highly significant.

Hundreds of millions of people already have scars that they would like to get rid of. According to the authors, current scar-removal techniques like surgical excision, steroid injections and laser therapy, are usually expensive, painful, or not very effective. The researchers predict that the dressing will also make the surgical revision of existing scars a more appealing option. More research is necessary and larger clinical trials are currently being planned.

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