Just as keloids are an overgrowth of tissue visible on the surface of the skin where a previous injury or scar used to be, scar tissue is an overgrowth of tissue typically underneath the skin. Think of keloids as the tip of the iceberg, and scar tissue is what develops beneath the surface. Because both keloids and scar tissue are made by your own body and are made of normal tissue, neither is seen by the body as unhealthy and thus is not considered by the body as a problem that needs to be repaired or fixed. After the initial injury or surgery, scar tissue development may be an ongoing process that can develop in the following weeks, months, and even years.
Scar Tissue Impacts on Healing
Scar tissue development has long been the bane of the surgeon and the doctor. Successful wound repair can be complicated later by scar tissue development, which is beyond the control of both the surgeon and the patient. Like keloids, scar tissue is what happens when the body overreacts to an injury. This overproduction can complicate treatment later on and even alter the desired results of the surgery.
Why Our Body Forms Scar Tissue?
Scar tissue development has had a great impact on the field of cosmetic implants. Anything inserted or placed into your body that was not originally part of your own body can be considered a “foreign body.” Cosmetic implants are no exception. Once placed, the body identifies that something is in the body that was not there before. Once a foreign body is identified, your body reacts in two ways:
- Your body will attempt to break down the foreign body and get rid of it organically. This is how medications work and function. Say, for example, that you have a headache and you decide to take aspirin. You swallow the aspirin, and once inside your body, the aspirin breaks down and your body absorbs and uses the molecules to alleviate your headache. The remainder is then excreted from your body though your urine and/or feces.
- Your body will attempt to break down the foreign body but cannot get rid of it. Such is the case with cosmetic implants. Once the implant has been put in place, (eg, breast, buttocks, penis), the body recognizes its presence. Because the implant is made of a material that the body cannot catabolize (ie, break down), it begins to isolate the implant and wall it off from the rest of the body. Your body begins building a wall of tissue around the implant so that it can not harm your body in any way. Again, normal development of this tissue is perfectly OK; however, abnormal development creates scar tissue and can lead to changes in the desired appearance or function of the implant.
Immune System and Scar Tissue Development
It important to note that fibrous scar tissue is formed by the immune system. It is the immune system’s overreaction to the implant’s presence that causes scar tissue formation. So, the simplest way to resolve scar tissue is to shut down the immune system, right? Wrong! Although the immune system is responsible for scar tissue development (which is bad), it is also responsible for defending the body from bacteria, viruses, and other things that can cause sickness, disease, and death, every minute of every day, and that defense is good. Managing the immune system so that it builds the capsule around the implant without building excessive scar tissue is key.