Parathyroid surgery is used to treat hyperparathyroidism (HPT). While there are many important factors to consider before deciding to have a surgical treatment, a potential scar shouldn’t be the main decider. While parathyroid surgery can leave a scar, a smooth recovery is possible and can limit the impact of parathyroid surgery scarring. This article will discuss how to recover and treat your scar from parathyroid surgery.
What is a Parathyroid Surgery Scar?
Scarring is common during all types of surgery. During parathyroid surgery, a patient receives an incision into the neck, so one or more abnormal parathyroid glands can be safely removed. With any incision, a scar can occur.
However, steps can be taken to limit the size of a parathyroid surgery scar and ensure it naturally blends into a patient’s neck skin. For example, careful incision placement helps lower the risk of a large scar after parathyroid surgery; the incision is usually in the lower neck and in the line of neck crease. Also, keeping an incision as short as possible helps increase the chance that a scar will be virtually invisible following parathyroid surgery. Having a patient-doctor conversation prior to surgery can help address the issue of scarring so both parties on the same page going in.
How Big is a Scar After Parathyroid Surgery?
The size of a scar after parathyroid surgery varies based on the type of surgical technique and other factors. Generally, the scar is less than 2 centimeters in length. In many instances, the scar also fully heals after surgery, so it has minimal impact on appearance.
Is a Parathyroid Surgery Scar Noticeable?
The scar after a parathyroid surgery may be difficult to see, even up close. When surgery is performed by a parathyroid expert, minimal scarring occurs. As a result, a patient’s parathyroid surgery scar may be unnoticeable.
How Should You Care for Your Scar After Parathyroid Surgery?
Parathyroid surgery patients should receive post-treatment instructions which include recommendations to care for a surgical scar. By following post-treatment instructions, patients can minimize scarring, as well as avoid potential complications. Post-treatment care instructions typically offer the following recommendations:
- Initially, the incision site will be covered with protective tape that helps prevent infection at the treatment site. This tape should remain intact for approximately 7 days after parathyroid surgery. During this time, patients can shower or wash hair, but the tape should not be scrubbed or soaked.
- On day 7, the tape is removed and the patient shoud start applying vitamin E ointments and sunblock. For at least two months apply vitamin E ointment twice a day. Apply sunblock with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 35 or higher in the mornings for at least two months as well.
Why vitamin ointments and sunblock? Vitamin E can help speed healing, and sunblock can lighten the appearance of scars. Excess exposure to direct sunlight can make a parathyroid surgery scar darker in contrast to the skin around it, so keeping a scar out of sunlight — up to one year following parathyroid surgery is recommended – can help minimize its appearance. Staying out of sunlight and applying sunblock when going outdoors are two ways to achieve this.
How Does the Scar Change as it Heals?
Patients may notice swelling around the treatment site in the weeks after parathyroid surgery. Swelling can persist for several weeks, and during this time, a parathyroid surgery scar can become pink and hard. When this happens, patients should try not to worry and understand that these side effects are common during parathyroid surgery recovery.
Hardening of scar tissue after parathyroid surgery tends to reach its peak level at about three weeks after treatment. Patients may experience tightness in the treatment area, but this generally disappears on its own within about two to three months following surgery. Furthermore, massaging a parathyroid surgery scar can help alleviate tightness, and a patient can start to massage a scar as soon as two weeks after surgery.
It may take up to a year for the scar to fully mature following parathyroid surgery. The scar is permanent, but eventually, it becomes soft, flat, and white.
Is There a Risk of Parathyroid Surgery Scar Infection?
The risk of parathyroid surgery scar infection is typically minimal. Signs of infection include redness and tenderness around the scar that does not subside in the months following treatment.
If a patient believes an infection is present at a parathyroid surgery treatment site, medical care is required to correct the issue as quickly as possible. In this instance, antibiotics may be provided to treat the infection.
Can Bleeding Occur Around a Parathyroid Surgery Scar?
Parathyroid surgery patients dealing with an underlying bleeding disorder may be susceptible to bleeding around a scar after treatment. Patients who take medication that can hinder or prevent blood clotting may be prone to bleeding following parathyroid surgery as well.
Before parathyroid surgery, a patient must provide details about any underlying bleeding disorders or use of medications. This enables a patient to receive a personalized treatment plan that limits the risk of bleeding around a scar after parathyroid surgery and other potential postoperative complications.
If a parathyroid surgery patient has an underlying bleeding disorder, alternative treatment options may be explored. Or, if a parathyroid surgery patient is taking medication that disrupts blood clotting, the patient may be required to stop taking the medication leading up to treatment.
Is Parathyroid Surgery Scarring Preventable?
Parathyroid surgery scarring is not preventable, but Dr. Babak Larian of the CENTER for Advanced Parathyroid Surgery performs a minimally invasive parathyroidectomy (MIP) designed to reduce scarring in contrast to other parathyroid procedures. A MIP is also fast, safe, and delivers a cure rate of 97%. To find out more about minimally invasive parathyroid surgery or to schedule a consultation with Dr. Larian, please contact us online or call us today at 310.461.0300.