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Scars after Surgery


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Unfortunately, if you have to have any form of surgery it is very likely that you will have a scar as a result.  Surgery can be lifesaving, but may leave scars that you are very unhappy with and that you wish to have altered.  Scars can serve as a visible reminder of any surgery that you may have to have, and can cause emotional stress after your operation.  Scars post-surgery can also cause some pain and discomfort, especially if positioned close to a mobile joint.  Scars may change the way you dress, the way you view yourself and your confidence levels, and as a result many people try to have them reduced. 

Before having surgery

Before you have any surgery it is important that you inform your surgeon if you have previously suffered from hypertrophic or keloid scarring.  They can then be more careful about the positioning of your scar, and might give you support garments after your surgery so that the scarring is reduced as much as possible. 

It is a good idea to ask your surgeon about techniques that may help you to reduce the scarring produced through surgery.  They may be able to provide you with practical advice which will benefit your recovery.

Atrophic scars after surgery

The ideal scar for you to develop after any surgical procedure would be a flat/pale scar, the most common scar type.  These scars rarely result in any unwanted side-effects such as itching or pain, however they can stretch if positioned near a joint, creating a wide white scar. 

Hypertrophic scars after surgery

Sometimes, although relatively rarely, people will suffer from hypertrophic scarring after surgery.  This will show itself by a reddened and raised scar over the wound. Hypertrophic scars can cause some pain, and might be distressing to see, appearing red and quite angry at first.  Pressure garments can help to reduce the visual appearance of hypertrophic scars, these are often given to you after your surgery. 

Keloid scars after surgery

Keloid scars are a lot rarer than hypertrophic or pale/flat scars, although they can occur post-surgery.  It is very important that if you have ever suffered from keloid scarring in the past that you inform your surgeon before having any surgery.  Pressure garments may help to contain your keloid scarring, although if a keloid scar is going to develop there is little that you can do to prevent this. 

Avoiding scars during the surgery

Before you have planned surgery your surgeon will do all that they can to reduce the size of your scar, and to position it in such a way so that it will be as discreet as possible.  This will be discussed with your before you have your surgery.  Sometimes, however, this is simply not possible.  Life-saving surgery such as open heart or trauma surgery will mean that you will have to live with a large scar.  Surgeons will try to make the scar as small as possible, and make the incision as narrow as they can.  Keyhole surgery is widely practised as a way of performing intensive surgery using as small an incision as possible. Using a very reputable, skilled surgeon is also likely to reduce the size of your scarring.  

Paying for scars produced by surgery

If your surgery was unplanned and life-saving it is possible that you will be able to get help with reduction methods through the NHS.  Every scar has to be individually assessed before this can happen, it is more likely that you will be awarded NHS help if you scar is:

  • Very disfiguring
  • Causing you emotional distress
  • Creating mobility problems
  • On the face

If you are unsure about any scar, and how it is developing it is best to ask your GP for help and advice.


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