That Won't Leave a Mark

Considering cosmetic surgery but afraid of potential scars after your procedure? While surgical techniques and technology have advanced significantly in recent years to reduce the size and risk of developing scars, researchers at Binghamton University, State University of New York, have created a new device that adds an extra layer of minimizing scarring during surgery.

The device can determine the position of skin tension lines, which is important for wound healing post-surgery and reducing the chance of developing scars.

"Skin is a multi-layer, complex tissue. Skin tension lines are created by underlying collagen fibers in the dermis layer," said Dr. Mona Alqulali, a Bettendorf, Iowa, cosmetic surgeon.

Skin tension lines are important guidelines for surgeons - they tell surgeons where to make incisions to create the least noticeable scars.

While skin tension guidelines can help surgeons minimize scarring, skin presents unique challenges: Its anisotropy, or dependence on mechanical properties, can vary between individuals.

This means there is no universal guide in making incisions.

"Because everyone has skin tension lines in different places, there's no standard of where to make cuts," said Alqulali.

Does This Matter?

Yes, it does. Since cosmetic surgeons use these lines as markers to make cuts, understanding how they work is very important.

"For example, if you cut across the direction that collagen is arranged, you increase the chance of developing a keloid scar," Alqulali said.

If cosmetic surgeons make their incision along the direction of the collagen alignment, the chance of scarring is reduced, and wounds heal better," Alqulali said.

Finding skin tension lines can be complicated, confusing and often inaccurate, leaving patients at risk.

The device created by the SUNY researchers gives researchers a more accurate way to find skin tension lines that go beyond conventional visual and manual searches. In addition to being more precise, the device is also more efficient, taking only a few seconds to give surgeons the information they need.

The device is not the only skin tension line-detecting device on the market; however, it is the only device that measures skin tension direction.

The researchers hope that this device will soon be readily used by cosmetic surgeons across the country to help minimize scarring.

Other ways patients can help reduce scarring after any surgery include following aftercare instructions for wound cleaning and avoiding behavioral factors that can affect healing like smoking and alcohol consumption.

"Smoking can delay healing and lead to an increased risk of infection," said Alqulali.

Some other factors that can lead to scarring include age, race, genetic history, and depth and length of incisions.

"As we age, our skin becomes thinner and less elastic, as does the fat layer under the skin. This means scars form more easily after surgery or after any skin break," Alqulali said.


Binghamton University. "New device could help minimize scarring in cosmetic surgery." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 11 March 2019.

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