Treating Scars With Fat

Scar treatment using a fat graft led to improved appearance and function

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Most people have a few scars, but for people with severe scarring, the damaged tissue can cause insecurity about one's appearance and even limited movement.

A recent study tested a new type of procedure for treating scar tissue. The procedure uses a patient's own fat, which is injected into the scar tissue. Researchers looked at whether the appearance and function of the scarred area improved after the procedure.

When the researchers followed up several months after the procedure, they found that the scars had improved in appearance and became less hard and uncomfortable.

The researchers concluded that the unique treatment could be a way to successfully treat severely damaged tissue.

"Talk to your doctor about regenerative treatments for scar tissue."

Marco Klinger, MD, of the Università degli Studi di Milano, led this study that aimed to see if a new method of fat grafting could be an effective treatment for scars.

This fat grafting procedure involves inserting the patient's own fat tissue, which contains stem cells, into scar-damaged areas of the body. Stem cells can divide indefinitely, so they are sometimes used to help regenerate tissues that are damaged or not functioning.

Serious scarring can sometimes lead to functional problems with the skin. Scars do not have sweat glands and often resist hair growth. Because scar tissue is tougher than normal skin, movement can be impeded.

Further, people who have severe scars often seek scar treatment because they want to improve the scar's appearance.

To test the fat grafting method, the researchers studied 694 patients who had experienced severe scarring that hindered their daily activity and mobility. The patients were between 16 and 62 years old. They had received their scars via burns, road trauma, surgical procedures and other ways.

Of these patients, 20 were chosen to receive clinical assessments based on the Patient and Observer Scar Assessment Scale and Durometer measurements, which assesses the hardness of the scar.

Each of the patients underwent the surgical procedure, during which fat was taken from the patient's body, usually from the torso, and inserted near the scarred area.

The patients were assessed based on their pain level and the presence of the scar six times after the procedure, from five days to 12 months following the surgery.

For every patient who was treated with the fat grafts, the scar's appearance and functionality improved based on qualitative assessments. Additionally, pain in the scar area decreased while elasticity increased, allowing for a wider range of movement.

For patients whose scars were measured with the Durometer, skin hardness was reduced significantly. Three months after the operation, the average patient's scar was about 30 percent softer and less resistant than it had been before the operation.

Patients reported a decrease in impaired movements and improvement in color, thickness, shape and pain at the scarred area.

The researchers concluded that the fat insertion treatment seems to be a successful and effective way to improve both the appearance and functionality of parts of the body with scar tissue.

This study was published in The Journal of Craniofacial Surgery in September.

The authors disclosed no outside funding sources or conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
October 1, 2013
Last Updated:
October 1, 2013