By Dr. Michael Jones
I’m proud to be an African American man who devotes his life to making people feel secure in their skin. At Lexington Plastic Surgeons we see more than people looking for breast augmentations and enlarged buttocks. We see countless patients who come to us for keloid and scar removal. Whether it’s from an ear piercing or a scar left by an accident, keloids are often unattractive and can have an impact on someone’s self-esteem.
Keloids are thick, raised scars that tend to enlarge aggressively and, unlike regular scars, do not subside over time. Aside from being cosmetically challenging, keloids tend to be itchy, tender and sometimes even painful to the touch. Depending on where the keloid grows, such as at the site of a C-section scar or on the neck, they can greatly impede a person’s quality of life. As a Board Certified plastic surgeon, I am always meticulously suturing patients’ incisions post-surgery to ensure they are left with the smallest, most inconspicuous scar possible. This is especially true for patients with darker skin tones who have a higher propensity for developing keloid scars.
The first mention of keloids dates back as far as 1700 BC when Egyptian papyrus writings were discovered detailing surgery and the formation of these scars. But it was not until the early 19th century when the term “chéloïde” was coined by a French dermatologist. In Africa, body modification was historically popular and in some cultures, is still popular today. Scarification was a way to decorate the body and the formation of keloids also acted as armor, giving some protection to warriors.
For a majority of the population who develop keloids today, the scars carry a social stigma, as they are unsightly and oftentimes very large. In my 15 years of practice and taking care of thousands of post-operative patients, I have seen firsthand the challenges that patients face in dealing with these scars. One of the hardest things is seeing patients who feel disappointment when creams and lasers do not seem to have any or only minimal effect on the size and shape of their keloids. Surgical removal of the tissue will offer temporary relief but a majority of the time the keloids return or new and additional keloids form at the site of the incision.
Always on the lookout for the next great technology that could address and correct keloid scars, I continuously researched companies that were developing a solution. One in particular seemed to be at the forefront of dermatological innovation. Sensus Healthcare had developed a machine that treated patients with non-melanoma skin cancer by providing superficial radiotherapy to the affected area. The success of the SRT-100 machine on skin cancer treatment prompted the company to apply to the FDA for use of this machine on keloids, which was approved 2 years ago. Working with Sensus, we developed a treatment plan to get rid of keloid scars once and for all. A combination of scar excision and 3 sessions of superficial radiotherapy have proven to be the successful formula. Over the past year, a patient study conducted by my staff and I has revealed a 99% success rate in preventing recurrence.
One of the most touching cases in my practice was a young lady who developed a keloid scar under her lip following a tragic car accident in which her best friend was killed. The scar was a daily reminder of that night, reviving her pain every time she looked in the mirror. After trying countless other methods to remove the scar from this delicate part of her face, the patient was referred to me. The scar excision went flawlessly and the small surgical scar was barely visible. The superficial radiotherapy that followed ensured that the keloid would not return. A year later, she is still keloid-free and was able to begin to heal from her traumatic experience.
We commemorate our ancestors, including ones for whom scarification and the intentional development of keloids were intertwined with their customs, survival and way of life. Through medical and technological advancements, we use what we know about our unique genetics and history to help us improve our quality of life today.