The Effects of Scar Tissue After Surgery

There are several unfavorable effects of scar tissue formation following surgery. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health or NIH, the body puts down scar tissue after an injury or surgery as a way to heal its wounds. The degree of scarring depends on the following factors: wound size, depth and location, a person's age and skin characteristics, including skin color or pigmentation.

Changes Skin's Appearance

Post-surgical scar tissue formation can alter the skin's appearance. According to the NIH, scar tissue typically is thicker, pinker, redder or shinier than the rest of a person's skin. The NIH says the appearance of a person's scar largely depends on the size and depth of the wound, where the wound is located, how long the wound takes to heal, the age of the person undergoing surgery and a person's inherited tendency to scar. The NIH says that although scar tissue on the skin's surface often fades with time, it rarely fully resolves, and that if the appearance of the scar tissue is problematic, a number of procedures may help reduce the size and shape of the scar tissue. These include dermabrasion, laser treatments, injections and chemical peels and creams. One of the most effective conservative care methods for the treatment of surface scar tissue is instrument-assisted soft tissue mobilization, which uses tools to manually reduce the post-surgical scar tissue.

Impedes Joint Range of Motion

Post-surgical scar tissue can unfavorably alter joint range of motion, depending on the scar tissue's location. According to the University of Washington's Department of Orthopedics and Sports Medicine, post-surgical scar tissue tends to recur and can reduce joint range of motion unless movement therapy and stretching is begun immediately after surgery. To promote optimal post-surgical joint range of motion, use a continuous passive motion or CPM machine to gently guide the involved segment and joint through its normal range of motion. A CPM typically is used during the first few days following surgery. While still in the hospital, a patient who has just had surgery may also get instruction on proper active range of motion exercises to prevent stiffness and myofascial adhesions from forming in the involved area. Active range of motion stretches promote a more coordinated and less haphazard deposition of scar tissue following surgery.

Creates Discomfort

Post-surgical scar tissue and adhesions can cause discomfort or pain, despite the fact that most scar tissue itself is not sensitive to pain. According to the Myofascial Release Clinic website, scar tissue put down after surgery may pull on other areas, compress nerves, blood vessels and organs and limit physiological functioning. This can cause pain or dysfunction. In fact, scar tissue can restrict many layers of muscle and connective tissue, which can cause varying degrees of pain or discomfort. Scar tissue is weaker, less elastic and more prone to re-injury than normal, healthy tissue, and can lead to chronic pain if it affects the functioning of other structures--especially nerves and blood vessels. Painful post-surgical scar tissue may also indicate the presence of an infection in the involved area, which should be evaluated by a physician as soon as possible.

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