Open Heart Surgery and Scar Care
Open heart surgery is any invasive procedure that requires a surgeon to make a large incision on the chest to open the rib cage and operate on the muscles, valves, or arteries of the heart. People with coronary heart disease are at risk for open heart surgery, also known as cardiac or cardiovascular surgery. Coronary heart disease is characterized by the restriction of blood flow to the heart caused by fat (plaque) buildup in the coronary arteries. A person who sustains an injury or other form of trauma to the heart may also require an open heart procedure.
Even with modern medicine, post-operative care and recovery often present big challenges for some patients. One aspect of heart surgery recovery that receives little attention is the cosmetic appearance of a patient’s scar. If you are predisposed to keloid
or hypertrophic scarring,
continue reading to learn what you can do to promote fast recovery and prevent nasty scars.
Caring for your heart surgery scar
Traditional heart surgeries left patients with scars over the sternum measuring 6 to 8 inches in length. These scars were unsightly and painful, and would often lead to keloid or hypertrophic scar
formations. Fortunately, with modern advances in medicine and technology, minimally invasive procedures are much more common. It’s possible for a heart surgery patient today to leave the operating table with a scar 2 to 4 inches in length. Minimally invasive surgeries reduce scarring and the risk of infections, and usually lead to quicker recoveries.
Each patient may experience different recovery rates after an open heart surgery, but as a general rule, a person’s health will stabilize after 8-12 weeks. If you want the best results for your scar, follow the four tips listed below.
- Avoid strenuous exercise and activities – The reopening of your incision after surgery can complicate the wound-healing process dramatically. Avoid lifting objects more than ten pounds and refrain from any hard labor that might reopen your wound.
- Protect against direct sunlight – Immature scars don’t react well to direct sunlight. Extended exposure to ultraviolet radiation can contribute to hyperpigmentation, resulting in discolored scar tissue.
- Clean and dry your scar – Use lukewarm water and a mild soap or cleanser to wash your scar site. Maintaining a dry, clean scar will minimize dirt and germs, preventing irritation or infection.
- Use silicone gel sheeting – Silicone gel sheeting and silicone gel ointments have been used as an effective scar therapy solution for over 30 years. Ask your doctor if medical silicone is right for you, and visit Biodermis.com today for a complete range of scar care products.
For optimal recovery results after open heart surgery, it’s important to follow any instructions given by your surgeon in addition to these steps.
What will my scar look like after heart surgery?
The size of your scar after open heart surgery will largely depend on the specific procedure performed and the decision made by your surgeon. The way your body produces scars is largely determined by your genetics, skin type, and how well you maintain your scar. Given these factors, it’s difficult to predict how an individual’s scar will look after an invasive procedure. Many scars fade over time, but some don’t. It’s also important to know that a scar will never completely go away, even with the help of modern medicine.
Luckily, there are many topical solutions for scars that will flatten them and reduce their appearance. In the best case scenario, and with the right products, you can help your scar blend in with the surrounding tissue, making it less noticeable.
Clinically-proven treatment for all scar types
Scar care products
can be found everywhere online and in stores. But many of these products contain ingredients that aren’t supported by clinical evidence, and can even be harmful to your skin. Knowing which products to purchase and which to avoid is vital for improving the appearance of your scar.
Vitamin E found in many scar gels and ointments has no proven benefits for reducing the appearance of scars. In fact, in one study conducted by doctors Bauman and Spencer, vitamin E was shown to have no effect on the appearance of patients’ scars. In some cases, patients contracted contact dermatitis from vitamin E exposure and the appearance of their scars worsened. Onion extract found in Mederma has similarly poor results, and there is yet to be any conclusive evidence for its use as a scar treatment.
Silicone gel sheeting
has been on the market for over 30 years, and numerous clinical studies support its efficacy as a prominent scar therapy solution. But not all silicone gel sheets are made equal, and it’s important to do your research before buying. The silicone gel sheets found in the store only measure about 1 to 2 inches in length. You would need multiple sheets to cover the size of your scar from open heart surgery. Store-bought silicone gel sheets are flimsy and ineffective, and they aren’t meant for larger scars.
Biodermis has been the leader in silicone scar technology for almost 30 years, and has silicone gel sheets
with your scar size in mind. Epi-Derm Silicone Gel Sheets by Biodermis contain medical-grade silicone
approved by the FDA and trusted by doctors around the world. For scars 4 to 6 inches in length, Epi-Derm C-Strips
will be the right size for you. Scars 7 to 11 inches in length can be effectively treated with Epi-Derm Long Strips
. Epi-Derm Silicone Gel Sheets by Biodermis can be cut to fit your scar size, and can be reused for up to two weeks. These products are hypoallergenic and safe for all skin types.