Doctors develop elastic sheet to reduce scars

June 30, 2011 7:57:40 PM PDT
From routine C-sections to the most complex surgeries, patients can typically expect to have one thing in common -- a deep and lasting scar. But researchers at Stanford believe a simple device could soon change that.

No matter how carefully a surgeon closes an incision, scarring is inevitably part of the healing process. But now, researchers at Stanford say they've come up with a way to limit it.

"The original concept is that we would make bad scars good and good scars perfect," said Geoffrey Gurtner, M.D. from Stanford.

To achieve that, Gurtner and his team at Stanford began mapping the force that typically pulls on a closed incision after the sutures are removed causing scar tissue to spread. They then began experimenting with stretchable materials with the goal of immobilizing the incision area while it's healing.

"When the bandage is removed, it constricts and you can feel, you can sense that they're essentially like a soft tissue splint," said Gurtner.

The result is a new kind of elastic bandage that's stretched over the skin with adhesive. As it regains its original shape, the bandage gently pulls the skin towards the incision line as it heals. While the difference in pressure is slight, the results in clinical trials are clearly visible.

"This actually prevents the forces that make those scars look worse and worse," said Gurtner.

The team is now, expanding their clinical trial with the goal of repeating the results in patients with different skin types. If they're successful, they believe the elastic stress shield could become a routine post-surgical treatment.

"We're very excited because I think we've proven that the biology works in humans. This eliminates one of the key factors in the biology of wound healing that makes scars form," said Gurtner.

The current version of the shield does not contain any medications, but Gurtner says future versions will combine factors such as Vitamin E or even stem cells to enhance healing.

Written and produced by Tim Didion


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