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Focus on factors that can be controlled during surgery for a good cosmetic result



Factor patient health into planning

When planning surgery, consider a patient’s comorbidities, previous surgeries, as well as current medications; those include anticoagulants or systemic steroids, which can affect the outcome of surgery. For patients who have had previous surgeries, determine whether they had any surgical complications, or experienced adverse outcomes such as keloids, hypertrophic scars, or soft tissue infections.

When planning your surgical “roadmap,” the general area of the surgery can factor into how a wound heals. Consider the vascularity of local tissues, and any tension in local tissues that can increase tension on the skin such as in the scalp, the foot, the ankle, or the back. Use the patient’s relaxed skin tension lines to minimize scarring. Since they were developed while experimenting on cadavers, the Langer lines of skin tension are not always ideal to use, and Kraissl’s lines, developed by a plastic surgeon, are a better guide for surgical planning, Dr. Gotkin said.

He also advised placing surgical markers on a patient in the way they’ll be lying during surgery. “I always tell people to crosshatch the fusiform design before surgery, because once you make the incision, they may open up and everything gets distorted, particularly when a patient’s lying down,” he said. “We have to put these markings on while the patient is sitting. Then, when you put your sutures in, you can use those lines to line everything up, so that you end up with a scar that fits in how you designed it when the patient was upright.” The rule is a 3:1 or 4:1 ratio for length/width when designing a fusiform incision for excision of a lesion.

Incisions are made perpendicular to the surface of the skin instead of beveled. “Repair in tension” rather than layers, Dr. Gotkin said. “It’s important when you put a needle in the skin, pronate so that the needle goes in at 90 degrees from the skin surface,” he explained. “Follow the curve of the needle through and supinate as you’re putting the needle through. That way, you get the right amount of tension and the right amount of tissue in the grasp of the needle.”

When tying sutures, Dr. Gotkin said he uses a hand tie in addition to an instrument tie, everting the skin edges as he closes subcuticular and cuticular sutures.

During surgery, gentle handling of tissues with forceps that have teeth, rather than a smooth surface, will help avoid crushing the skin. “That’s very important in plastic surgery, and it’s very important in any surgical procedure that you do,” he said.

These technical factors are “completely under the control of the surgeon,” but above all, a good surgical plan following an accurate diagnosis is most likely to yield the best result for patients, Dr. Gotkin said. “An architect wouldn’t build a house without blueprints, so you have to do the same thing when you’re doing surgery.”

Dr. Gotkin reported no relevant financial disclosures.


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