Can a Scar from Heart Surgery Be Made Smaller?

I had heart surgery last April. I'm 42 years old and the scar is small from the top but huge at the bottom. What can be done to minimize this scar and when can I seek treatment?

Doctor Answers 8

Heart surgery scars and sternotomy scars can be improved

{{ voteCount >= 0 ? '+' + (voteCount + 1) : (voteCount + 1) }}

Heart surgery scars can be improved with IIT, laser, and pressure treatment.  Rarely do I surgically excise these scars from the midline chest. Check out our before and after photos on our website.

Sternotomy scar

{{ voteCount >= 0 ? '+' + (voteCount + 1) : (voteCount + 1) }}

There are many fine plastic surgeons in Atlanta who can evaluate your incision and can determine if there are any ways to make it thinner and less noticeable.  If your heart is fine now, it is reasonable to visit them and ask. 

Almost any scar can be treated

{{ voteCount >= 0 ? '+' + (voteCount + 1) : (voteCount + 1) }}

Yes, scars from open heart surgery can be improved but it will be important for you to be assessed by a board-certified dermatologist or plastic surgeon.  They will examine your body to see how you generally heal and decide the best plan for your specific scars.  There are many options available, including steroid injections, lasers, dermabrasion and/or scar revision.  The most important thing will be to follow up with the doctor you choose, since most scars require multiple treatments.  By returning to the same doctor for these visits, you will have your treatment plan tailored to your specific needs.

Heart surgery scar

{{ voteCount >= 0 ? '+' + (voteCount + 1) : (voteCount + 1) }}

 The scars after heart surgery can become red, hard , elevated & wide. The earlier the treatment, the better off the results. A combination of intra-lesional corticosteroid injection & freezing with liquid nitrogen [cryo therapy], give very good results with barely-noticeable scars.

Khaled El-Hoshy, MD
Detroit Dermatologic Surgeon

Chest scar

{{ voteCount >= 0 ? '+' + (voteCount + 1) : (voteCount + 1) }}

Scars from heart surgery can certainly widen. This is a fairly common thing. Sometimes a scar revision can be performed with or without steroid injections to improve the quality of the scar.

Chest scar treatment options

{{ voteCount >= 0 ? '+' + (voteCount + 1) : (voteCount + 1) }}

There are various treatment options for a chest scar that you describe, and most commonly intralesional cortisone is employed. Occasionally surgical scar revision is used, or dermabrasion, or even fractional laser. Silicone gel sheeting can provide some modest improvement as well. The scar should be assessed by your local friendly dermatologist or plastic surgeon and then the best treatment option can be determined.

Benjamin Barankin, MD, FRCPC
Toronto Dermatologic Surgeon

Large scar on the chest

{{ voteCount >= 0 ? '+' + (voteCount + 1) : (voteCount + 1) }}

After a bypass procedure it is not unusual to have a very noticeable scar on the chest since this area routinely scars poorly. It is also difficult to improve. After your heart surgeon says you may be treated to improve this scar then you may want to go to a Plastic Surgeon to see if it can be improved. There are some options such as steroid injections(kenaloge) and topical items such as silicone and surgical excision. The scar may be a keloid which is a more difficult problem but it is probable hypertrophic and will improve for at least the first year on its own.

Improvement and narrowing of Heart Surgery (Sternotomy) Scar

{{ voteCount >= 0 ? '+' + (voteCount + 1) : (voteCount + 1) }}

Since the same surgeon closed both the top as well as the bottom of your chest scar, it may be safe to assume that something took place which allowed or led to the scar widening. Usually, this area of the body is always tugged on since every arm movement results in pulling across the chest.

If your Heart surgeon approves, I would see one of the many gifted colleagues we have in Atlanta and have him / her revise the scar. Providing you are not taking immunosupressing medications, you should have a much better result.

Dr. P. Aldea

Peter A. Aldea, MD
Memphis Plastic Surgeon

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.