Engineering Minute

Engineering Minute – New Device Helps Decrease Scarring From Surgery

Researchers at Binghamton University are developing a novel device that can help minimize scarring from surgery. The device determines the orientation of skin tension lines, which guide surgeons in where they should make their incisions and help make unnoticeable scars. Since there is no guideline universally recognized as the best to implement, an individual's skin needs to be correctly mapped before surgery. This is where the new device comes in, by quickly and accurately mapping a patient's skin tension lines, surgeons are better able to plan where they make their incisions to achieve as little scarring as possible.

The device painlessly applies a radial stress of 17 kPa to a region of skin, and captures radially asymmetric skin deformations via a dermal camera. These deformations are used to quantify orientations of strain extrema and the direction of greatest skin stiffness. The ratio of these asymmetric strains varies between 1 and −0.75. A simple 2D transverse isotropic model captures this behavior for multiple anatomical sites.
The device painlessly applies a radial stress of 17 kPa to a region of skin, and captures radially asymmetric skin deformations via a dermal camera. These deformations are used to quantify orientations of strain extrema and the direction of greatest skin stiffness. The ratio of these asymmetric strains varies between 1 and −0.75. A simple 2D transverse isotropic model captures this behavior for multiple anatomical sites.
Credit: Binghamton University

 

“Skin is easier to stretch in one direction than another (try stretching the skin on your wrist along the length of your arm, and then at 90 degrees to this),” says Guy German, associate professor of biomedical engineering at Binghamton University. “This has been known for a long time. More recently, however, it has been discovered that these lines have important implications. Firstly, surgeons (primarily cosmetic surgeons) use these lines to decide on which direction to make incisions in order to make the least-conspicuous scars. If you make incisions across the direction that collagen is aligned, the risk of keloid scar formation (raised scars that can grow larger than the original injury) is increased. Cut along the direction of the aligned collagen and wounds heal better and produce less scarring. Surgeons currently use either skin tension line maps (of which there are many, and often different) or manual manipulation to find the local orientation of skin tension. Manual manipulation is often inaccurate, and our research demonstrates that skin tension line directions differ between people—so maps are only approximate.”

 

From the Binghamton University article: "The new device created by the researchers is more accurate than other devices and the manual tests that surgeons perform. The device is also more efficient, as it only uses a single test that lasts a few seconds to measure skin tension orientation.

'Our device can measure the skin tension line direction accurately and quickly,' said German. 'Other devices exist that do this. However, many devices require more than one measurement to establish the direction, and the devices that use a single test can currently only measure the skin tension direction to an accuracy of 45 degrees. Rather than using guidelines, our device directly measures the skin tension direction, avoiding the need to use maps or guidelines. We believe our device is more reliable and accurate than existing methods.'

 

Read more about the new device that helps reduce scarring from surgery at Binghamton University