Widgets Magazine

New device could reduce surgical scarring

Stanford researchers have developed a wound dressing that could significantly reduce scar tissue caused by incisions.

“This work actually started 20 years ago when I was an intern at Massachusetts General Hospital,” lead author Geoffrey Gurtner said in a press release. “I realized early on that we were not going to solve the problem of scarring with current surgical tools and techniques.”

Gurtner is professor and associate chair of surgery at Stanford.

After surgery, when sutures are removed, the surrounding skin pulls the edges of incisions in different directions, causing scar tissue to thicken and spread. The new dressing eliminates this tension and reduces a considerable amount of scarring.

Co-author Reinhold Dauskardt, professor of materials science and engineering, and his peers developed the dressing in his lab. It is made of a thin and elastic silicone plastic, which is stretched over wounds after sutures are removed. An adhesive is added to the dressing to help it stick to the patient’s skin. The dressing contracts and provides uniform compression on the wound.

Scar tissue is less flexible than normal skin and can cause problems like limited motion. According to the study’s authors, current methods of removing scars — for instance, surgical excision, steroid injections and laser therapy — are generally expensive, painful or ineffective.

The device was tested in pigs, which have similar skin to that of humans. The device reduced the area of scars caused by one inch incisions by six-fold compared to pigs in a control group with the same sized incisions. The study said the stress-shielded wounds showed almost scarless closures eight weeks after sutures were removed.

The wound dressing has also been tested on nine female patients who had undergone abdominoplasties, or tummy tucks. The authors noted that some of these wounds demonstrated varying degrees of improvement. They speculate this may have been due to differences in the amount of tension present in the dressings when they were applied to the wounds. The researchers cautioned that this was a preliminary clinical study.

The authors have indicated that larger clinical trials are being planned, with the dual objectives of including greater ethnic diversity among the patient population and identifying the ideal range of stress-shielding forces for wounds.

— Billy Gallagher