Bariatric Weight-Loss Surgery

Weight Loss Surgery Scars

Dr. Jason F. Moy
Dr. Brian T. Chin
Daniel Roman
October 19, 2023
Weight Loss Surgery Scars

It is common for weight loss surgery, also known as bariatric surgery, to leave scars on the stomach. Most weight loss surgeries involve gastric bypass, sleeve gastrectomy, or gastric bands

Both gastric bypasses and sleeve surgeries involve the creation of a smaller stomach pouch and rerouting of the small intestine, which causes a scar to run vertically down the middle of the stomach. In adjustable gastric banding, an adjustable band is placed around the stomach, leaving a small scar near the belly button.

How serious are these scars and can they disappear? How to take proper care of the wounds for minimal scarring? Let’s find out!

Understanding the Location and Length of Scars

Your incisions will depend on the type of surgery you have. There are two primary options:

  • Laparoscopic: Bariatric laparoscopic surgery involves inserting a thin, long tube with a camera and lights into the abdomen to perform weight loss surgery. With the laparoscope, the surgeon is able to see inside the stomach and make changes to the stomach and intestines through small incisions in the abdomen. Compared to traditional open surgery, this type is less invasive.
  • Single-incision: As opposed to traditional laparoscopic surgery, single-incision laparoscopic surgery (SILS) uses a single incision, usually in the belly button, instead of several incisions as in traditional laparoscopic surgery. A single incision is used to insert special instruments and a camera for the surgery. There's less scarring and cosmetic benefits with this technique.

Can Scarring Be Avoided?

An incision in the skin will always leave scars. The formation of scars is part of our body's natural healing process, and it begins forming collagen when we are cut or injured. Repaired skin differs in color and texture from the surrounding older skin. 

Scarring after bariatric surgery depends on how intrusive the surgery is, the patient's age, genetics, and the way the patient cares for their incisions after the surgery. 

A scar may be flat, stretched, or raised. In younger patients, irregular scars are more common because collagen production is higher.

In a few months, these wounds will begin to heal, and taking care of them after bariatric surgery is important. Moistening the wounds, cleaning them, and not constantly touching them may speed up the healing process, which will help the scars to fade away as well.

Types of Scarring

Following bariatric surgery, there are four types of scars that can form:

  • Hypertrophic scars – Scars that are raised above the skin's surface
  • Keloid – Scarring that extends beyond your incisions
  • Larger scars – Scars after wounds caused by infection or reopened incisions
  • Discolored and thicker scars – Scars due to direct sun exposure

How to Minimize the Risk of Scarring

There are several measures you can take to minimize the risk of scars after bariatric surgery. Here is what you should take care of:

  • Be sure to follow the diet plan recommended to you by your dietician. In the beginning, you should stick to a clear liquid diet and then gradually introduce purees, soft foods, and solid foods.
  • Your surgeon will recommend exercises to help you promote blood flow, which will help your wounds heal faster and decrease scarring. Follow the instructions but keep in mind not to stretch your skin too much, or your incisions may pull apart or break.
  • You should avoid tobacco products because smoking stunts the healing process and increases the likelihood of infection. 
  • While your incisions are healing, get plenty of rest, and don't overdo your exercise. When you are fully rested, your body's healing response operates at its best.
  • Any bleeding from your incisions, or any fluid that has changed color or thickness, should be reported immediately to your surgeon since this can lead to infections. In the event that you do not treat the condition quickly, your scars might get worse and you might face serious medical complications.
  • Utilize a sunscreen or cover up your scars to prevent them from getting sunburned. When exposed to the sun too much, scar tissue can thicken and change color.
  • Be sure to drink plenty of water to prevent dehydration from interfering with the healing process. Skin that is dry is more susceptible to damage and scarring.

Topical options such as Vitamin E, cocoa butter, and vaseline can reduce scarring after a sleeve gastrectomy or other weight loss surgery. It is important to keep the skin moisturized and lock its moisture. 

Medical professionals will always discuss the risks and complications of bariatric surgery with you before the procedure. Great bariatric surgeons, like those at BASS Bariatric Surgery Center, will prepare you for an active and healthy lifestyle post-surgery. Take a look at our patient stories to learn more about the positive effects of bariatric surgery on the patient.

About The Author

Daniel Roman, Content Writer

Daniel Roman is a Digital Content Writer at BASS Medical Group. He received his Masters in Journalism from UC Berkeley in 2021. Daniel has published multiple newspaper articles covering public health issues. His latest was a magazine cover story on pandemics and diseases that he co-wrote with Dr. Elena Conis, a historian of medicine, public health, and the environment.

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