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Extracorporeal shockwave therapy for scars


Acoustic waves help to improve wound healing by increasing the release of systemic growth factors, but can they be used to effectively minimize post-cosmetic surgery scars?

Treating patients prior to surgery with extracorporeal shockwave therapy is a promising approach for reducing scar formation and postoperative symptoms, although results of a small study of abdominoplasty patients comparing extracorporeal shockwave therapy to placebo were not statistically significant. Rather, ratings showed a clear trend favoring extracorporeal shockwave therapy over placebo, according to a study published April 29, 2019 in Lasers in Surgery and Medicine.

Researchers in prior studies have found that acoustic waves, or extracorporeal shockwaves, help heal tissue in acute and chronic soft tissue wounds. Without treatment-related toxicity, infection or other safety concerns, extracorporeal shockwave therapy also has been shown to help treat deep partial thickness burns, reduce scar pain among burn patients post wound recovery, as well as aid in the treatment of chronic ulcers, diabetic food ulceration and decubital ulcers, according to the study.
The acoustic waves work for improving wound healing by increasing the release of systemic growth factors, they write.

Researchers in Austria evaluated use of preoperative unfocused low energy extracorporeal shockwave therapy in a prospective, controlled pilot study on 24 abdominoplasty patients. They randomly treated the surgical patients one day before surgery with one extracorporeal shockwave therapy on one half of the operative area and placebo on the other half. Researchers evaluated scar formation at six and 12 weeks after surgery with 19 scar parameters included in the Patient and Observer Scar Assessment and Vancouver scar scales.

While none of the comparisons reached statistical significance, the ratings revealed a clear trend favoring extracorporeal shockwave therapy, with the largest differences favoring the therapy related to thickness and overall impression, based on the Vancouver scar scale.

“We conclude that [extracorporeal shockwave therapy] presumably reduces scar formation and postoperative symptoms after surgery and recommend further studies to confirm [extracorporeal shockwave therapy] efficacy,” said the study’s lead author Elisabeth Russe, M.D., in an American Society for Laser Medicine and Surgery press release.


The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.


Russe E, Wechselberger G, Schwaiger K, et al. Effects of Preoperative Extracorporeal Shockwave Therapy on Scar Formation-A Pilot Study on 24 Subjects Undergoing Abdominoplasty Surgery. Lasers Surg Med. 2019.

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