Do Compression Garments Reduce Scarring?

Posted by Dr. Hugh McLean on 24 February 2015

Yes! They have been found in clinical trials to reduce scarring in almost all patients. They have beneficial effects both early and late in the healing process. For best results, they should be worn near-continuously for four to six straight weeks.

Compression Garments

Compression and Early Healing

At first, your body will try to remove the debris of damaged cells from your incisions, reduce the inflammation, and rebuild the tissue. Cells called fibroblasts fill the area and begin to pull the wound shut. These fibroblasts need a steady supply of moisture to stay active, and compression garments help protect this moisture.

When used properly, a compression garment can also protect against infections and additional trauma. The garment’s pressure helps prevent old wounds from opening or stretching in response to sudden violent movement, like coughing or sneezing. It also keeps the incision tightly closed and absorbs sweat and skin oil, preventing infections.

However, the real magic of a compression garment comes later in the process.

Compression and Later Healing

The fibroblasts in your wound will eventually build little strings out of collagen, a type of protein, to lace your wound together. This creates the smooth, shiny part of scars. It’s natural and cannot be avoided. But where it goes wrong is when the new strings are over-produced and bunch up, creating a raised and very visible scar.

This is known as a “hypertrophic scar.”

Compression heals hypertrophic scars. The steady compressive force causes any bunched-up collagen to break down and be re-absorbed by the body. Over time, this makes scars lower and less noticeable.

How to Get Best Results with Compression Garments

When buying a garment, always buy one intended for medical purposes, not sports ones. The sports garments are not designed to be worn all the time, and often do not have enough compressive pressure to break down collagen.

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