Acne Scar Repair Surgery
Almost everyone gets acne as a teenager: the American Academy of Dermatology, or AAD, says that 85 percent of teenagers suffer from at least a handful of pimples each year. Not everyone who gets acne develops scarring as a result, but those who do often feel self-conscious about their scars, or believe that their scars limit their opportunities. For those people, acne scar repair surgery can help repair even severe acne scarring.
Acne leaves behind several different types of scars. Depressed acne scars, the most common type, often resemble pits or saucer-shaped depressions in the skin. Patients often call these "ice-pick" scars or "boxcar" scars. Raised acne scars, which are uncommon, can be very painful and disfiguring. They appear as thick, rubbery raised patches or bumps on the skin. Acne also can result in skin spots or discolorations, most often red in color but sometimes pink, brown or even purple. These spots technically aren't scars because they will fade in time.
Acne scar surgery can treat both raised acne scars and depressed acne scars. In each case, the goal is to physically remove the scar tissue. With depressed acne scars, the surgeon likely will remove the pitted scar and may replace the skin with a skin graft from another location on your body. Another effective technique, called subcision, involves separating the surface skin from the scar tissue underneath, and possibly inserting an implant to level the skin in that area. In the case of a raised acne scar, the surgeon will cut off the raised scar, but you may require other treatments to prevent the scar from returning.
Surgery for acne scars takes place on an outpatient basis. Prior to surgery, you'll receive either a local anesthetic or light sedation; you'll most likely be awake through the procedure. The surgeon will use either a punch or a scalpel to remove the scar or scars. After the surgery, you'll require some recovery time, and you'll need to guard against infection in your surgery incisions. Patients whose depressed scars were removed often don't see significant improvement in their appearance for up to six months as their skin heals.
Although it's impossible to remove all evidence of severe acne scars, medical research indicates that acne scar surgery often produces good to excellent results. For example, one study looked at subcision treatment in depressed acne scars, both with and without implants to level the skin. That study, published in June 2008 in the Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology, reported moderate improvement in scar appearance in 40 percent of patients and mild improvement in the rest.
If you decide to get acne scar repair surgery, you shouldn't expect instant results, the AAD says. It likely will take months before your skin settles down after the surgery and you can see your true appearance. In addition, you may need additional procedures. For example, some dermatologists recommend scar surgery combined with laser resurfacing for those with depressed acne scars, and those with raised acne scars may need injections or even radiation therapy to prevent those scars from returning after surgery. If you're considering surgery for your acne scars, you should consult with a dermatologist experienced in scar repair techniques to determine the best approach.
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