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5 Week Postop Tummy Tuck and Surgical Tape is Still Attached?

I am 5 weeks postop and my original surgical tape is still attached? My ps said to allow it to come off naturally. Should I start taking it off? Should I replace it?

Doctor Answers (6)

Scar care after tummy tuck

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Thank you for your post. In tummy tuck and other lift/tightening surgeries, tension is the enemy. The scar is healing gradually over 12 weeks or so, and until it is strong, it is the weakest link. As there is a great deal of tension in tummy tucks, body lifts, breast lifts, etc., the scar is at high risk of 'stretching' or widening. Silicone sheeting, although having the ability to make a scar flat, does nothing to prevent stretching of the scar. Creams or steroids or lasers also do not have the ability to prevent stretching of the scar. Those are used if scar is thick or dark, but not to reduce the wideness of the scar, which is the main problem. Massage also does not help keep the scar thin, and can actually worsen the scar in the first 12 weeks because you are actually adding tension to the scar. Massage is for softening a hard or thick scar, but if used early, will hasten the scar widening. Only tension reduction has the ability to keep the scar as thin as possible. You may notice in a lot of tummy tuck scars that the center portion of the scar is the widest with the sides toward the hips being the thinnest. This is because the maximum tension is at the center, and least amount on the sides. Embrace removes a lot of the tension by putting more tension on the skin on either side of the incision and drawing the incision together. It is expensive though at about $100 per week for 12 weeks. When patients do not want to spend the money for embrace, I tape the incision trying to remove as much tension as possible for 12 weeks and recommend no stretching back and to sit most of the time, keeping tension off the scar.
Best wishes,
Pablo Prichard, MD


Phoenix Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 27 reviews

5 week postop tummy tuck and surgical tape is still attached?

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Hello! Thank you for the question!  Follow your surgeon's instructions - but, these will fall off and no need to replace.  It is common for scars to fully mature for up to a year. In the meantime, there are a few things that may help to ameliorate your incision/scar. The most proven (as well as cheapest) modality is simple scar massage. Applying pressure and massaging the well-healed scar has been shown to improve the appearance as it breaks up the scar tissue, hopefully producing the finest scar as possible. Other things that have been shown to add some benefit, albeit controversial, are silicone sheets, hydration, and topical steroids. These can usually be started at approximately 3-4 weeks postop and when incisions healed. In addition, avoidance of direct sunlight to the incision will significantly help the appearance as they tend to discolor with UV light during the healing process. Scars will never disappear, but attempt is made to make the finest scar in a concealed location. Incisions may be revised to lower or conceal better if enough laxity exists.

If unsightly scars are still present after approximately a year's time, other things that your surgeon may consider are intralesional steroid injections, laser, or just surgical revision of the scar itself.

Hope that this helps! Best wishes!

Lewis Albert Andres, MD
Scottsdale Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 12 reviews

How to improve scars? Your surgeon's advice is best to follow!

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Surgical tapes, clear adhesive Tegaderms, Steri-strips, etc. are all ways plastic surgeons try to help support and reduce tension on healing scars as they mature and fade. The best scars are found after precise closure, minimal wound tension, absence of infection or inflammation, avoidance of ultraviolet exposure, in some areas of the body as opposed to others, but mainly in genetically-blessed individuals!

Silicone scar pads are often advised after surgical tapes/dressings are removed, and most surgeons feel they work to inhibit excessive scar formation by contact inhibition, moisture retention (another inhibitor of excessive collagen formation), and warmth retention (which increases collagenase enzyme scar breakdown more than collagen scar formation).

Surgical tape(s), regardless of their type as long as they do not CAUSE irritation or inflammation (which is why you are advised to not change them), are often called the "poor man's scar pads" as they seem to work just about as well as silicone scar pads. BTW, scar pads do not have any "medicine" or special scar inhibitors within them; they work by the mechanisms noted above, and can be reused indefinitely as long as they are clean and non-irritating.

Bottom line here: if your scar turns out badly, it will be your plastic surgeon you will go to and complain (and perhaps ask for improvement), so it behooves you to follow his/her advice so it is not that reason your result is unsatisfactory. Your surgeon presumably does things for a reason! Best wishes! Dr. Tholen

Richard H. Tholen, MD, FACS
Minneapolis Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 123 reviews

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Surgical tape 5 weeks after surgery

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Please followup with your plastic surgeon.  5 weeks seems a long time for steri-strips to be still stuck on.  Aslong as there is no drainage coming from your bandages, you should be fine. Wishing you a speedy recovery.

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Leave the tape

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I also have my patients keep tape over the scars for a minimum of 6 weeks after any surgery.  If the scars are kept from drying out by the tape, the scarring will be minimized.  Any tape that is well tolerated by the skin will work.  After the tape is removed, you will need to keep the scars well lubricated to further improve the scars.  In my experience, Mederma is not very good.  Aloe and cocoa butter would be a bare minimum (and seems to work better than Mederma).  There are other products that  also work well such as Bio-Oil, Rejevana, and ScarGuard.  Silicone sheeting over the scars will also help.

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Tapes are Okay!

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It is fine to have the surgical tapes after even 5-6 weeks.  If the tapes and skin do not seem moist or have any discharge, leave them in place.  I typically like to have the patients remove the tapes, if they are still in place, at 6 weeks so we can start using our scar creams on the incisions.

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These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.