Clinical applications of basic research that shows reducing skin tension could prevent and treat abnormal scarring: the importance of fascial/subcutaneous tensile reduction sutures and flap surgery for keloid and hypertrophic scar reconstruction

Rei Ogawa, Satoshi Akaishi, Chenyu Huang, Teruyuki Dohi, Masayo Aoki, Yasutaka Omori, Sachiko Koike, Kyoko Kobe, Masataka Akimoto, Hiko Hyakusoku
Journal of Nippon Medical School 2011, 78 (2): 68-76
We use evidence-based algorithms to treat abnormal scarring, including keloids and hypertrophic scars (HSs). This involves a multimodal approach that employs traditional methods such as surgical removal, postoperative radiotherapy, corticosteroid injection, laser, and silicone gel sheets. As a result, the rate of abnormal scarring recurrence has decreased dramatically over the past 10 years. However, several problems remain to be solved. First, despite the optimization of a radiotherapy protocol, over 10% of cases who are treated with surgery and postoperative radiotherapy still recur in our facility. Second, the treatment options for cases with huge keloids are very limited. To address these problems, we performed basic research on the mechanisms that drive the formation of keloids and HSs. Extrapolation of these research observations to the clinic has led to the development of two treatment strategies that have reduced the rate of abnormal scar recurrence further and provided a means to remove large scars. Our finite element analysis of the mechanical force distribution around keloids revealed high skin tension at the keloid edges and lower tension in the keloid center. Moreover, when a sophisticated servo-controlled device was used to stretch wounded murine dorsal skin, it was observed that the stretched samples exhibited upregulated epidermal proliferation and angiogenesis, which are also observed in keloids and HSs. Real-time RT-PCR also revealed that growth factors and neuropeptides are more strongly expressed in cyclically stretched skin than in statically stretched skin. These findings support the well-established notion that mechanical forces on the skin strongly influence the cellular behavior that leads to scarring. These observations led us to focus on the importance of reducing skin tension when keloids/HSs are surgically removed to prevent their recurrence. Clinical trials revealed that subcutaneous/fascial tensile reduction sutures, which apply minimal tension on the dermis, are more effective in reducing recurrence than the three-layered sutures used by plastic surgeons. Moreover, we have found that by using skin flaps (e.g., perforator flaps and propeller flaps), which release tension on the wound, in combination with postoperative radiotherapy, huge keloids can be successfully treated.

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