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October 9, 2015 5:02 PM   Subscribe

I recently heard that there are new procedures to break up scar tissue that are akin to scoring the surface of a ham, i.e. cross-hatched for max flexibility. I've had an immovable band of scar tissue around my elbow for 15 years that prevents my arm from extending fully, and I'd like to look into this procedure. My google-fu is weak (no, I DON'T need another search result for the Chili Peppers song) -- do you know what it's being called by doctors? Thank you!
posted by to Health & Fitness (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Could you be thinking about the procedures referred to on the Encyclopedia of Surgery page on scar revision as "Z-plasty" or "W-plasty"? Even if not, the page might be of interest.

If that page doesn't help you, some search terms to try could be "contracture" (which refers to scar tissue interfering with movement), "revision", or "release". (Please note that I don't know anything about plastic surgery, I just have a good medical vocabulary!)
posted by snorkmaiden at 5:36 PM on October 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

Hey snorkmaiden -- I believe I already have a variant of one of those -plastys on the outside surgical scar portion of my arm (it's cut in an M-shape, not straight). This technique I heard about is not used to revise the surface scar, but to actually make underlying scar tissue more flexible. In my case, this would be the tube of scar tissue that's wrapped around the bones in my elbow, keeping them from being able to extend fully. But we're on the right track!
posted by at 6:20 PM on October 9, 2015

I saw something along these lines in the medical show 'Embarrassing Bodies,' but I couldn't track down the exact episode on YouTube - a woman who had scars on her chest/upper arms had some sort of CO2 laser treatment to increase the mobility of her arm, if I recall correctly. Here is a link ( to a website that seems to describe that sort of treatment.
posted by that possible maker of pork sausages at 7:54 PM on October 9, 2015

Is it diamondplasty? The authors mention perpendicular hatch marks. Interestingly, here's a rebuttal to their letter.
posted by bluefly at 7:57 PM on October 9, 2015

I'm a little stuck because you describe the procedure as being like scoring a ham, but also not being like a revision of the surface scar - to me, those two things are at odds with each other, but maybe the laser treatments thing is an example of how something can be like cutting but not cutting. If you could describe a little further I might be able to search better.

This page describes a whole bunch of different scar revision techniques.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 8:00 PM on October 9, 2015

It sounds to me like you're describing ablative fractional laser resurfacing. It is more commonly used as an anti-aging tool but can also be used to soften scars. It does sort of cross-hatch the area but it actually works by stimulating scar remodeling. There is some effect right away but takes many treatments to really increase the elasticity of the scar. If the scar is actually deep near the elbow joint, it probably will not be useful but if you're talking about a scar on the surface of your skin then it may help.
It seems that possible maker of pork sausages is thinking of the same thing.
posted by bobobox at 5:00 PM on October 10, 2015

Thank you all! Now I have some better search terms to play with. It's my understanding that although yes, I have a large surface surgical scar, what's actually keeping the elbow from being able to extend fully is scarring of the band of tissue that wraps around it -- it grew into the bone fracture while the arm was in a cast (for too long) and had to be opened up and scraped / debrided to get the tissue out, at which point there was even more internal scarring.

Here we are 15 years later and the internal scarring has never broken up as I was told it might, so really would love to look into these newer techniques! At least now I have something to research and won't go in asking for "the ham treatment." ;)
posted by at 6:42 PM on October 10, 2015

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