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Gastric Sleeve Scars: What to Expect After Surgery

Gastric Sleeve Scars: What to Expect After Surgery

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      Scarring after gastric sleeve surgery is part of the process of this weight loss surgery. How the scarring heals after surgery is managed through choices and habits you have before and after surgery. How dark your scars are and how red your scars remain are all in your control during your first-year post-surgery.

      The appearance of scars after the gastric sleeve surgery is because of small cuts performed during surgery. The incisions along your skin crease form the small scars. The varying degree of scar appearances is because of the skin tensing during surgery. When the skin is tense during surgery, the skin changes color, creating your red and pink scars along your skin after surgery.

      Your scars may swell or feel tender to touch. The scars form when your new skin grows and strengthens your new skin tissue. Your scar may be flat or raised on your skin. The scars can be pink, red, or white. Over time the discoloration fades, but not always completely. Your scars may fade for up to two years after surgery.

      The first phase of healing takes three months where your skin is the most tender and brightly colored, the second lasts another three months where your scar color has lessened. Your scars will improve for a year after surgery. Your scars fade with time, but you will always have something.

      The Gastric Sleeve Scars Occur in Three Different Ways:

      Single Incision minimally invasive surgery:

      This surgery happens where one small scar is hidden in the belly button. With this surgery, you are “virtually scarless", but there is a slightly increased risk to develop umbilical hernia.

      Woman holding herself.
      Your Scars are part of your story to be proud of where you have come from.

      Multi-port minimally invasive surgery:

      Three to five incisions, usually five small scars across your abdomen. This is the most common gastric sleeve weight loss surgery approach. It could be done laparoscopically or robotically.

      The healing of these incisions depends on your health. I had laparoscopic  gastric sleeve surgery performed. I have five small scars across my middle and upper abdomen that are an inch in length, with some even more minor. This technique is frequently used with low complications and minimally scarring.

      Your scars are a normal part of healing after major surgery. Some scars disappear in the first few years, and some are more noticeable long-term. Reasons for varying degrees of healing depend on your healing routine, recovery, and skin appearance.

      Open Surgery:

      This surgery includes a large scar across your abdomen that is rarely used for a gastric sleeve. This is only performed when there is an emergency during surgery. This surgery puts you at risk for many complications during and after surgery.

      Inspirational words on posters against a fence.
      Scars are visible reminders of your journey. Your battle towards a better life.

      There are many ways to heal scarring that occurs post-surgery.  Ways to heal scarring depend on your health before and post-surgery.  How effective the process of healing your scars depends on many factors.

      Tips to Reduce Gastric Sleeve Scars:

      1. Keeping the incisions clean with soap and water to prevent infection.
      2. Following a diet recommended by your dietician post-surgery
      3. Maintaining physical activity according to the advice of your surgeon.
      4. Attaining adequate amounts of sleep.
      5. Avoiding direct sunlight on your scars.
      6. Applying sunscreen when in direct or indirect sunlight.
      7. Avoid picking at scabbing during the scar healing process.
      8. Massage the area around your scars regularly.
      9. Lotion potentially reduces scarring, tightens skin tissue, and reduces redness and visibility of scars.
      Healthy skincare items.
      Keeping your skin hydrated after surgery can strengthen your healing process.

      Gastric sleeve scars are to be expected post-surgery. There is available scar reducing products, but none have shown any proof at reducing or removing scars.

      The Origin of My Scars:

      The bariatric surgery I had was the gastric sleeve. I was told I would have five small incisions on my stomach, three roughly an inch long and two half an inch long. Going into surgery, it was the least of concerns or worries.

      After surgery, my incisions were tapped, the skin was blue around the small cuts. The incisions were red along the crease that was cut. I kept the tape on my incisions for a week, and then they automatically came off with time.

      Seeing my scars after surgery, I immediately noticed their color. There were not bumpy or raised against my skin. The color was a dark pink with slight blue bruising color around the pink incisions. Immediately after surgery, my scars were sore and tender, but the tenderness lessened over time.

      I observed my scars daily post-surgery. I regularly checked the color and kept the area clean and hydrated. With constant daily attention, my pink incisions quickly became five small scars that are presently very faint to the eye after a year post-surgery.

      I presently do not notice my scars when looking at my stomach. The color has faded so significantly that I have to squint and actively search for my scars to remember I have them. I was mindful of my skincare routine post-surgery, which I still maintain today.

      Psychologically, I have no regrets about having gastric sleeve surgery. I knew there would be cosmetic sacrifices to my skin, but the weight loss and health improvements outweigh my vanity. My scars are the physical manifestations of my personal journey towards health. The story of my body and what it has gone through and will continue to evolve into. I recommend patience and gratitude when processing and healing from the scars of the gastric sleeve surgery.

      Picture of a dandelion.
      Another step in your journey towards health.

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        Kelsey Renae Schulze


        Kelsey is a post-op bariatric patient who had sleeve surgery in 2018. She is a writer, focusing on a variety of topics given her background in legal studies and criminal justice.