When we hear the word “surgery”, we often imagine big, long scars and if you are contemplating weight loss surgery, you may have some questions about scarring. Often people ask, “Will gastric bypass surgery leave terrible scars?”, ”What kind of scars will gastric bypass leave?”, “Is there any way to prevent scarring after gastric bypass surgery?”. First, let’s talk a bit about how scars form to better understand what may occur after surgery.
How Do Scars Form?
A scar forms as a natural part of our body’s healing process. When our dermis is injured, our bodies begin forming new collagen fibers to fix the damage. These new fibers will have a different texture and often color than the rest of the skin surrounding it.
Scars can also form differently, due to location or the patient’s age. Scars can be flat and a bit red, fading to pale as it completely heals, stretched, pitted, and some other scars can be raised. Younger people, whose collagen production is high, often develop these raised scars called keloids due to an overproduction of collagen.
Any time an incision is done in the skin, there will be a resulting scar. How fast it fades or how noticeable is determined in part by genetics, aftercare, and how intrusive the surgery is.
Open Surgery vs Laparoscopic Surgery
There have been many advances in the field of bariatric surgery and many surgeries are now being performed laparoscopically as opposed to “open surgeries”. This means a shorter recovery time and a minimized risk of scarring.
What Is Open Gastric Bypass Surgery?
Open gastric bypass surgery means the surgeon uses traditional surgical methods that may require a large incision of up to 10 inches to be made in the abdomen to access the procedure area. The incision runs from mid-chest down to the belly button where the surgeon gains access to the stomach and intestines to complete the stomach alternation and bypass.
What Is Laparoscopic Gastric Bypass Surgery?
Laparoscopic bypass surgery is less invasive and while there are incisions, they are much smaller. The surgeon creates about 5 small incisions, strategically placed, to best gain access to the targeted areas and uses these entry points to insert the medical tools necessary to complete the surgery. The laparoscope has a small camera attached so the surgery can be viewed while it is performed using a computer monitor. The surgeon makes the stomach smaller and re-routes a part of the small intestine bypassing part of the digestive system.
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What Kind Of Gastric Bypass Scar Will I Have?
The type of scarring that results from gastric bypass surgery will depend on several factors:
- The technique used for surgery – gastric bypass surgery is performed laparoscopically if possible but in certain circumstances may have to be done as an “open” surgical procedure. The gastric bypass scars associated with each technique are different.
- Patient skin type – depending on ethnicity and natural pigmentation, scars will develop and look differently on everyone. Scars typically appear more prominent on individuals with darker types of skin.
- The skill of the surgeon – although this is a rarity, sometimes surgery performed by a surgeon who is less skilled will result in an increased amount of scarring.
- The post-surgical aftercare routine – patients are always discharged with aftercare instructions that include how to care for their healing incisions. Following these instructions can help avoid an infection that can make scarring worse. If an infection did occur, it may be necessary to perform an “open” procedure to remedy the situation which would result in a higher degree of scarring.
How Big Is The Scar From Gastric Bypass?
The scars resulting from a gastric bypass procedure will be different sizes depending on if the procedure is performed laparoscopically or as open surgery. Most bariatric weight loss surgeries are performed laparoscopically unless there is a medically related reason that necessitates an open procedure. The determining factor between these two types of surgery would be the safety of the patient. Some patients may require open surgery in certain circumstances:
- Patients with a very high BMI. Excess abdominal fat can prevent access and obscure vision of the surgical field.
- Patients who have existing scar tissue from previous abdominal surgeries which may prevent access or the medical team’s field of vision during surgery.
- Patients with certain health conditions may not be able to have laparoscopic surgery.
- Patients whose surgery started laparoscopically but due to an emergency or unforeseen circumstance during the procedure had to be converted to open surgery.
Scars from Laparoscopic Gastric Bypass
Scars from laparoscopic gastric bypass surgery will be between ½-1” long and usually 5 incisions are made in the abdomen. Typically, one incision is made to insert a laparoscope with a tiny camera and then there are four other incisions that are used for other instruments to perform the procedure. Often, the incision made for the laparoscopic camera is made in the belly button so there are no visible scars left. In approximately 90% of patients, the rest of the incisions will result in very tiny scars that fade to almost invisible within a year or two.
Scars from Open Gastric Bypass
The scar from open gastric bypass surgery can range from 8-10” in length and runs from the naval upward toward the sternum. With the larger incision, there is more risk for infection and the resulting scar is quite noticeable.
Things You Can Do to Minimize Gastric Bypass Scars
- Topical treatments can help lessen the appearance of scars. Solutions and creams like Cocoa buttercream, vitamin E, silicone gel, and other over-the-counter products like Vaseline and Aquaphor can often help heal scars.
- Surgery can sometimes be used to change a scar’s appearance and make it less noticeable.
- Cosmetic procedures and treatments can be used to reduce the appearance of scars:
Weight Loss Surgery with No Scars
There are different options and techniques used to perform weight loss surgery. Gastric bypass is one of them but there is a much less invasive option that leaves NO VISIBLE SCARS. This procedure is called endoscopic sleeve gastroplasty (ESG) and yields very similar results to that of gastric sleeve surgery. There is no hospital stay and a very short recovery time when compared to gastric bypass surgery. Ask during your consultation with IBI Healthcare Institute if ESG may be right for you!
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If you are considering bariatric surgery for weight loss, set up a consultation today with IBI Healthcare Institute. During your consultation, we can discuss all of your options for weight loss surgery, including the non-invasive, no scar alternative – endoscopic sleeve gastroplasty (ESG).
We invite you to ask questions and become as informed as possible with all the weight loss choices available to you. At IBI Healthcare Institute we are committed to helping you become healthy and will be there for you every step of the way.