When Are Steroids Used in Plastic Surgery?

When you think of plastic surgery, the first thing that pops to mind is probably not steroids.

But the steroids used in plastic surgery aren’t meant to make you buff or accentuate your newly revitalized appearance.

They are used as part of the healing process. And they aren’t used in every procedure.

When Are Steroids Used in Plastic Surgery?

Steroids have multiple applications in the expansive field of plastic surgery. We’ll take a look at four of the biggest areas.

  1. Post Op Swelling

Every type of plastic surgery procedure is going to require some amount of downtime. In some cases it might be days. In others, it could be more like months once all is said and done.

For those who undergo plastic surgery, returning to work and activities of daily living as soon as possible is key. Steroids can reduce swelling and even improve bruising following surgeries. This is especially important for facial surgeries.

Studies have shown that a single dose early steroid administration right after rhinoplasty surgery does reduce bruising and swelling around the nose and eyes. However, this is not a long term fix. Three days post surgery, they don’t seem to have much benefit.

Therefore, a short course of steroids around the time of surgery is considered most beneficial in improving healing.

  1. Healing Scars/Keloids

If you have a noticeable, poorly healed scar in a highly visible place such as on your face or hands, it can negatively impact how you feel about your appearance. A non-invasive procedure involving steroids can help.

That’s because steroids break the bonds between collagen fibers, thereby reducing the amount of scar tissue beneath the skin.

What’s more, steroids can also prevent a surgical wound from becoming a hypertrophic scar or keloid. So if you’re thinking about having plastic surgery, but have a history of hypertrophic scars or keloids, your plastic surgeon may inject steroids into the area before surgery begins.

These injections can either prevent a scar or keloid from forming, or reduce the scar’s size. Surgeons may also administer an additional steroid injection during surgery.

In the event that a scar or keloid develops post surgery, steroid injections every four to six weeks – for a total of five injections – are recommended.

  1. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS)

Patients with CTS have compression of the median nerve in the wrist. This can create numbness, pain, and even disability. Before succumbing to surgery, doctors recommend a steroid injection of the wrist.

In fact, according to a study published in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, the official medical journal of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, about one-third of patients treated with steroid injections for carpal tunnel syndrome didn’t need any further treatment over the course of several years follow up.

This seems to indicate that corticosteroid injections in the treatment of CTS are therapeutic. Further studies are needed, however, to determine which groups of patients are more likely to gain lasting benefit from steroid injections.

  1. Topical Treatment of Postinflammatory Hyperpigmentation (PIH)

Although new technology is making strides in treating skin conditions for dark-skinned individuals, postinflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH) has been the most common adverse effect of laser treatment in this population.

Therefore, a recent study set out to investigate the effect of short-term application of topical corticosteroids on the incidence of PIH. After ablative fractional resurfacing surgery, a topical corticosteroid cream was applied to one side of the face for the first 2 days, followed by an application of petrolatum jelly for the rest of the week. The other side was treated with petrolatum alone.

The side of the face treated with petrolatum alone had a higher incidence of PIH (75%) than the side of the face treated with the topical corticosteroids and petrolatum (40%). Plus, the PIH occurring on the petrolatum-treated sides was significantly higher in intensity and covered a larger area when compared with the corticosteroid- and petrolatum-treated sides.

The Healing Power of Steroids

It’s clear that the steroids used in plastic surgery are not long term. Yet in the short term, they can have some pretty powerful healing effects.

So if you’re considering a plastic surgery procedure and have further questions about how steroids may be a part of your healing, contact us today for a free consultation.

A board-certified surgeon will be happy to go into full detail about their use to put your mind at ease.