Gastric sleeve treatment leaves marks after surgery and takes time to heal, and the amount of gastric sleeve surgery scars differs from the type of surgery. While scars after the surgery are evident in the first 3 months after surgery, they are almost spotless over a year or two. It is possible to minimize these visible scars with enough attention and proper treatments so that your skin recovery process can be faster.
In this article, I’ll talk about scars caused by the gastric sleeve procedure, how to reduce them, how long it takes for them to disappear, and tips for faster recovery for your skin.
What are gastric sleeve scars exactly?
During sleeve gastrectomy, your bariatric surgeon creates one to five incisions in the abdomen area in order to perform the procedure. The number of incisions will vary depending on the method your doctor prefers. The procedure is performed through the opened incisions.
Gastric sleeve surgery is performed laparoscopically. The procedure is done by implementing 5 surgical tools in the area closest to the stomach, between the chest and the belly button. The exact location of the scars creates an elliptical appearance that starts from the navel.
Gastric sleeve scars according to the surgery type
There are two most common types of gastric sleeve scars left because of the surgery and they are:
Laparoscopic gastric sleeve: Laparoscopic gastric sleeve requires 5 incisions and each scare is used to insert different tool, one of them is the camera and the others are cutting-related tools
Single-incision gastric sleeve: This type of surgery requires only 1 insertion through a tube to perform the treatment. The incision is on the upper abdomen but it is not suitable for every patient.
You may have heard of other types of gastric sleeve surgeries. One of them is an endoscopic gastric sleeve which doesn’t require any incisions. Another type is an open vertical gastric sleeve. This requires a huge cut in the middle of the abdomen but this is not at all suggested by the surgeons anymore.
What happens if my scars get infected?
Scar infection does not necessarily happen to everyone, the risk of infection is very low. But in case it happens, you would tell if the scar has built up pus under a layer of skin in a light faded yellow color. This is a cause of bacteria trying to sneak into your incision but your white blood cells fight and surround the bad guys.
The solution for this case is to open the wound and let the pus out and wipe it with a clean tissue then wrap it with gauze for proper healing. In case the wound infection was repetitively building up puss then seek professional help from your doctor.
How long does it take for the wounds to heal?
These wounds begin to heal within a few months. The significant point is how bariatric surgery patients take care of their wounds after the operation. Moistening and cleaning the wounds and not constantly touching the wounds speed up this process.
After your wounds start to heal, the noticeable scar tissues of your wounds will start to disappear. Scars after bariatric surgery are seen more clearly in the first months. However, within the first year after the operation, your scars will eventually become invisible.
How to heal those scars
To heal your gastric sleeve scars, there are several things you can do:
- Keep your wounds clean
- Moisturize your wounds as much as possible
- Make sure you drink enough water
- Do not use any scam creams or gels
- Smoking is a huge mistake, it slows down the healing process
- You can consume foods that contain collagen
After the complete healing of your wounds, you can use moisturizers to make the scars disappear faster. Using daily moisturizers is the first step to fresh your skin. You can apply supplements by using collagen-containing creams. Also, each individual’s skin reacts in a different way to scars. Some people’s DNA is in a way that their scars fade away with no special treatment. However, if you find the scars annoying and the disappearing process too long, laser treatments help a lot.
What to consume to heal them
There are two ways two heal gastric sleeve scars, and that is by natural product consumption or medications you can buy from the pharmacy. I would suggest you fasten this process with the support of natural products. What you need in your diet is a good amount of collagen. You might even be consuming it without knowing it but here is a small list that may help your skin heal naturally:
- Bone broth
- Acidic fruits
- Spinach and other leafy greens
These are not only nutritious but also full of vitamins and protein. One of the benefits they all have in common is that they contain a good amount of collagen.
Collagen is basically a protein that our bodies produce. If collagen production is not enough, taking it as a supplement is a great idea. It renews the cells. So to say, it fastens your healing process.
You can also find powdered collagen and either mix it with water or your protein shakes. This also works with tea and coffee. In this way, you will be hydrating your skin and rebuilding tissues with better texture.
Tips from doctors to fade gastric sleeve scars away
You can protect your skin and minimize the appearance of obesity surgery scars by following some tips:
- Do not scratch your wounds, do not remove the crust, and never interfere with your wound from the outside. Your skin will renew itself.
- Clean your wound regularly and keep it dry with a clean towel.
- Drink plenty of water so that your skin does not dry out.
- In summer and sun exposure, use +50 SPF sunscreen that has UVA and UVB protection.
- Moisturize your wounds daily. Thus, your skin will be in a soft and flexible form.
- Stay away from tobacco and tobacco products. Smoking slows down your healing process extremely.
- You should avoid scar remover lotions. The content of these products is not suitable for the renewal process. On the contrary, it can affect your wound negatively.
- Plenty of sleep helps your body to heal generally.
- Physical activity will help renew your cells. Don’t work out hard, do regular exercise like walking.
Healing tips from patients’ perspectives
I’ve asked some of my patients to share their experiences with gastric sleeve scars and added their stories to this section. This can be a good guide for you.
- Don’t waste excessive money on medicals or cosmetics. Even with long-term use, I did not notice a serious difference. My effort and money were wasted. Instead, I kept my skin moisturized by using certain herbal nourishing oil blends.
- Smoking is a huge mistake. Your doctor will ask you to stop smoking before the surgery. Don’t go back and get rid of this harmful addiction because it severely damages both your skin and your stomach.
- Be sure to follow your doctor’s recommendations and consult your doctor about everything. Opt for supervised treatments over random product use. My doctor suggested sesame oil and I really got positive results. They’re not as clear as a scratch and you can barely notice them.
- Trust the time as it really helps your skin heal. After a year or two, you will realize how much of your scars have gone.
Fernández JI, Farías CO, Ovalle CL, Cabrera CS, de la Maza JC. Transumbilical single-incision laparoscopic sleeve gastrectomy. Obes Surg. 2015;25(3):430-435. doi:10.1007/s11695-014-1414-8 Link