Embroidery should be a required part of any student surgeon's curriculum.

I will explain why I firmly believe this should be so, after I go back in time, and explain why I have been absent from the boards since early July. I’ve included excerpts from a letter I sent out to friends and family to better explain things.

Now, to “vocalize” my reason for wanting surgeons to take an extra course. Even though in most ways the surgery went well, the doctor either did not take aesthetics into consideration, or was too rushed to care.

They had to cut my stomach muscles pretty much from hip to hip to remove the uterus containing the tumor, and the person who stitched me up did not take the time to be careful and neat.

The incision is not evenly stitched, there is a big ridge of flesh over it, unevenly humped with bits of skin sticking up in a zig-zag pattern alternating between top and bottom. I could do a better job stitching up a sock in a hurry on a cold winter’s day with my arthirtic hands!

I think that surgeons owe their patients more consideration than this. Sure, it’s not likely to show if I wear a modest bathing suit, but if I’m feeling a little daring, the grisly scar will stand a good chance of being displayed.

It’s not that I’m ashamed of my body. (I’m not.) It’s the horrified stares, the covert glances, whispers, and outright nosey questions that I don’t want. They could have all been avoided if the person stitching me up would have shown a little care.

How do you explain that the gory line marching across your stomach is due to the fact that you had to have a hysteretomy? I’m not even done mourning the fact that I can’t carry a baby in my womb… (I’m still dazed from it all, and focused on healing up. I remain optimistic, I do have my ovaries.)

Therefore, I personally feel that surgeons of any kind should learn some form of embroidery, and be graded on it, so that they can learn to make delicate, “pretty” stitches in short time. I’m sure there are other people with scars out there who would pause and agree with me on this.

I had to have surgery to remove cysts as well. While my surgery was nowhere near as invasive as yours, I do recall the same feelings that you are having.

I remember seeing the scar and being horrified. I felt like Frankenstein. Recovering from the surgery was not as bad as recovering from the shock of the scar.

While I realize that my scar is not as bad as yours (they taped me shut. no lie!), I can tell you that in time they do get better. I really recommend that you speak with your doctor and find a solution. It could be that after a while, some procedure could be applied to yours (a laser?) to lessen the impact of it.

Anyhow, I just wanted to write and let you know that you are definately not alone.

Bad News Babbon Thank you for speaking up, your words do comfort me a little. Yeah, I do feel like Frankenstein. They used tape on me too, but they also stitched me up from inside. It’s not pretty at all.

Just to forestall anyone who might be in a bad mood, and want to stomp on me for being “ungrateful”…

I am VERY grateful I survived the operation, and that I did not get pnuemonia or any other complications. (Not including the terrible stitching job done on me, honestly I’d flunk the person if I were grading them, and I’m pretty easy going too!) I’ve given soul deep thanks for my life, and continuing recovery.

All the same, it should be taught to the physician in ethics, that the Hippocratic (sp?) Oath means that they should also take care not to cause emotional stress or injury in the process of treating the patient. It should be brought home to them that a careless stiching job is not fully carrying out their duties to the patients because it makes nastier scars than necessary.

I’m not sure if they are taught embroidery or not, but if they aren’t they certainly could benefit from it. It would teach them nimbleness with a needle, and give them practice in being neat and tidy.

No, they’re not taught embroidery. Instead, they spend their time learning piffling little things like what to do if a clamp slips and the patient starts bleeding profusely, or if the patient suddenly goes into cardiac arrest on the table.

Not knowing the details of how your surgery went or having seen the scar, I can’t say whether or not the surgeon was careless. I do know this, though. Some wounds, because of the size and shape and location, just don’t close prettily. Sometimes they gap on one end, sometimes they’re pulled unevenly, and sometimes they’re just crooked. This is more common with accidental injuries, but I’ve seen it happen with surgical incisions, too. And sometimes it’s more important to get the patient off the table than to make a pretty suturing job. Far better for someone who’s become unstable under anesthesia to have a bit more scarring than to code. Life over limb, so to speak.

Sometimes you have to cause stress or pain to treat a patient. It’s a matter of whether the stress and pain caused by the treatment outweighs the stress and pain caused by not treating. What you have to ask yourself is this: Is the difference in the amount of scarring (you’d have a fair bit regardless, and it would look truly horrible this soon no matter what) causing you more distress than what you’ve been going through for the last two years? If not, they’ve done you no harm by doing the surgery.

Surgical incisions always look horrible for a while, no matter how much time and care has been taken. Your incision will be red and shiny and ropy and horrible-looking, but it will start to fade in. Once the incision itself has healed well and thoroughly, you can gently massage the area around the incision to help soften the scar tissue. I’ve been doing this with the scar from my hand surgery for a week or so now, and it’s made a huge difference in the appearance of the scar as well as the strength and mobility of my thumb.

Z_C I feel your pain. Well, almost your pain. I had major leg surgery almost 7 years ago, and luckily my surgeon did a really nice job stitching me up. You can hardly see the scar now, and it’s not terribly noticeable unless you look for it. I almost wish it were more noticeable, because one of these days the plate on my fibula is going to set off an airport metal detector, and I’ll have a bitch of a time explaining. It will take a while for the scarring to go down, but it will look much better than it does now, eventually. Anecdotally, I’ve heard that once the wound has closed up, Vitamin E oil will minimize scarring if you apply it topically during the healing process, and if you’re not doing this already, a daily multivitamin might help speed the healing process. And if it still bothers you later on, maybe your insurance would cover plastic surgery on the grounds that it’s reconstructive? It couldn’t hurt to ask.

I agree that a little care in stitching up can make a person feel much better about a surgery. When I was 14, I had to get my wrist opened up and poked at due to Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. The doctor made a very elegant incision and stitching job – the scar is pretty much invisible as it lies on one of the creases of my palm. I’ve seen others who had the same surgury and look like they tried to slit their wrists! I’m grateful to him for taking some care with it.

Have you considered a nice tattoo to cover the scar? My aunt did this after she had a kidney removed; she got a flower tattoo that followed the lines of her scar and camofluaged it pretty well. I’m not a tattoo person, but I certainly might consider one in that kind of case.

CCL You make good points. I am not meaning to come off as belittlling the medical profession. However, you know as well as I do that surgeons are only human, just as I am, and therefore falliable.

I was merely speaking up and saying that it seemed to me in my personal experience (from what information I had) that the physician was human, and got a little careless. While it doesn’t affect my “big picture” health, it is a “little” (but emotionally lasting) thing that could have possibly been softened with care.

Parts of the incision are actually raised higher than others, like a cliff face over a beach. It alternates from top to bottom, and to me looks as if not enough attention was payed while the stitches were being made. There are actually raw bits of “cliff faces” sticking up over smooth skin, sometimes on the top of the incision, sometimes on the bottom, like when you don’t take care while darning a sock. This is what I saw in the hospital once they removed the padding they had taped to my stomach to prevent chafing.

I was not told of any complications during surgery. Don’t they have to tell you if there were problems due to the anesthetic etc.?

I am using tea tree oil soap in an effort to help the parts of the skin that actually meet heal better. Is there anything else I can do, other than massageing the area gently besides this?

Eva Luna I am disabled, I’m lucky my medical card covered the surgery at all.

Yumanite I’ve thought about getting various tattoos for a while, but I always pause, think and withdraw due to the fact that I already have to be very careful what I put on my skin because it’s so sensitive. I’m afraid I might have a reaction to the dyes used for the tattoo, and then what would I do?

There is a silicone sheet that is used to help scars heal. You tape it over the scar every day, and the constant static electricity will help the body continue to renew the tissue, making it less red and less visible over time. There is a delay between injury/surgury and when you begin to use it though, so you’ll need more information. They even sell it at my local walgreen’s, so I know it’s available readily. I can find the clinical research for you if you want that.

Now to the other information. I’m a doula, so I know about c-section scars. It’s very important to make the scar loose and rippelly, as the skin heals flatter and nicer with extra tissue at the beginning. It does get flat with time. C-section scars that look nice and even the day of the operation don’t look good with time. Ones that look like hell usually get better with time. Obviously you did not have a c-section, but I think it somewhat applies.

If I were ever to have surgery, I would ask the doctor for the name of a plastic surgeon he likes to work with, then get that doctor to do a consult on the incision at the time of the surgery. Seriously, I’m that vain.

There is always the issue with a good friend of mine. She swears the doc who did her hysterectomy didn’t stitch her up as nicely as he would have done for a thin woman. She has a noticible budge under her waistband that makes shopping difficult. It was not there before. But that’s on a different subject.

Ah, I’m also making sure I do use my stomach muscles, of course, so that the muscles will actually grow together, and not spread apart. I walk etc. (Though laughing, coughing, sneezing, and shudder elimination HURT at first!!!)

Well they already have courses on making scars less visible. Obviously it’s a must for those going into cosmetic surgery and I believe more general surgeons are being encouraged to have at least some skill.

Not to make excuses but sometimes the stitching job is limited by location and the amount/type of material being stitched. Also scarring varies between individuals. Stitching together the many directional layers of muscle fibres in the stomach is no easy task: it has to be solid before pretty.

My brother had his stomach stapled shut after emergency bowel surgery (post car accident). I almost collapsed when I saw the stitch job he had. I can tell you that the flesh ridge subsided eventually. It’s been a while since I’ve seen him but I believe it is now just a long flat whitish scar up his stomach. Noticeable but not gruesome (unless you really think about what used to be there).

Good luck. Ask what you can do immediately and in the next few months to help reduce the scarring (e.g. supplements/topicals, exercise, massage). If it is really bad, plastic surgery is an option. I’m told they like a scar to be a year old before they try to “fix” it.

When my mother gave birth to me, she arrived at the hospital in the middle of the night only about an hour before I was born. This meant that there was not sufficient time for her ob/gyn to get there. No matter, a plastic surgeon wanna-be was there and I was born with no complications. (I was the first baby he’d helped with). Then he stitched her up. Over the next couple of days, more than one nurse checked her stitches and told her what pretty stitches she had and offered to get a mirror so she could see them.

More recently she had a hysterectomy, followed 4 months later with a “2nd look” surgery (ovarian cancer, she’s doing just fine). She was amused and relieved that her doctor made the incision for the second surgery right where he had made the incision for the first surgery.

Zabali, don’t worry. All scars look like flaming hell right after surgery, but unless you are genetically predisposed to building up a lot of scar tissue, in a year’s time that scar will most likely be a little white or pinkish line. Both my father and my husband have had very large incisions - as a matter of fact, my husband was operated on three times in the same place - and all that’s left now is a couple of pink lines that really aren’t all that noticeable. Just sewing the skin together - even if it isn’t pretty - does a lot for minimizing scarring. The husband had a wound on his leg that had to be allowed to heal naturally since the area couldn’t be stitched, and that thing will always look bad because it’s solid scar tissue in the middle.

What you describe your scar looking reminds me a bit of what my dog’s looked like after he had to have his left front leg amputated due to bone cancer - the surgeon had pulled the skin together, folded it over and then stapled it. So it looked pretty odd, and we wondered if there would be a lump along the incision line (obviously not a big deal to a dog, but it kinda freaked us out a bit). It all evened and smoothed out though, and he looked fine in a few months. If you just take some deep breaths and remind yourself that Mother Nature and Father Time are great healers, things will most likely be OK in the end.

Here’s an article I found by a surgeon about surgical scarring that mentions some products you can try to reduce it:


Also, don’t be afraid to talk to your doctor or your surgeon about it. It might make you feel better - either they’ll have something comforting to say about it, which will make you feel better, or you’ll have taken the opportunity to let them know that you aren’t pleased with the aesthetics of the job, which might make you feel better too! And let them know that they should pay a little more attention to detail in the future if it is possible to do so.

I’m counting that last post as a simulcast with CCL as I typed it up a while ago and posted it after doing a chore sans preview.

waah. :slight_smile:

And Cocoa Butter. It comes in a stick from…Oh hell…I remember the store has a lot of green in it…and it’s in a mall. I have a friend who swears by it.

That’s all I got. Good luck! Lots of it!

Apricot, what is a doula?

A doula is basically a professional labor and birth coach. There’s a lot more to it than that, but that’s the biggest part of it.

Hey, ZC–your scar sounds a LOT like what mine looked like after my C-section this past June. The entire time I was in the hospital the nurses kept commenting on what a “nice closure” it was and how my doc “always does such pretty stitching”, so imagine my surprise when I got home and was finally up and about enough to lift up my belly flap (gross, I know) and see this HUGE JAGGED BRIGHT RED GASH of a scar across my entire lower gut. I seriously wanted to puke. But it has slowly been getting better, and I take comfort in knowing that so many medical pros are not likely to be all wrong. Here’s hoping that by this time next year we’re both breathing big sighs of relief when we check out our tummies.

That having been said—a freaking cantalope!? You poor thing! I’m glad all went well, and please allow me to express my regrets over your childbearing loss. That must be really difficult to come to terms with, and I hope you and your husband both can find a way to deal, together.

Yeah, they took a Polaroid of it, and my uterus, so I got a veiw of the tumor, where it was positioned in the uterine muscle, and the large inflammed cervix with cysts. I’m glad it was removed, it did give me perspective and tempered my sadness at not being able to carry a child in a pregnancy. Now I know, “These things just happen sometimes, and if or when they do, you just have to deal and find other ways to be productive, grow and be happy.”

matt_mcl, CCL got it pretty well. I forget that the term ‘doula’ isn’t well known outside the US. I provide support for pregnant and laboring women.