Gastric Sleeve Scars - How Your Stomach Will Look

Last Updated:  

09/26/2017

What your gastric sleeve scars will look like depends on how your procedure is performed:

  • Single-incision laparoscopic surgery – One small scar hidden in your belly button – Becoming more common
  • Multi-port laparoscopic surgery – 4 to 5 small scars across the abdomen – Still very common
  • Open surgery – Large scar across the abdomen – Usually only done for emergencies during surgery

Read and click the sections below for everything you need to know about external scars and internal scar tissue after gastric sleeve surgery.

01Gastric Sleeve Scar Pictures By Technique
  • Single-incision laparoscopic scar (Best)
  • Multi-port laparoscopic scars (Good)
  • Open surgery scars (Worst)
  • Before and After Photos

What does gastric sleeve scar tissue look like?

It depends on which technique your surgeon uses: single-incision laparoscopic, multi-port laparoscopic, or open surgery. Following are descriptions and pictures for each technique, in order of best to worst scarring.

Single-incision Laparoscopic Gastric Sleeve Scar – Best

The “virtually scarless” single-incision laparoscopic technique is quickly gaining popularity, but many surgeons still do not perform it due to not having the proper instruments or trainin.

Single-incision laparoscopic gastric sleeve scars before and after pictures:

Gastric Sleeve Scars

Image source: SurgeryNC.com

Gastric Sleeve Scars

Image source: Advocare

Multi-port Laparoscopic Gastric Sleeve Scars – Good

Less invasive multi-port laparoscopic techniques came into use in the 1990s that insert surgical instruments into 3 to 5 small abdominal incisions across the middle and upper abdomen. This technique is still widely used and is very effective at minimizing gastric sleeve incision scars and the risk of complications.

Gastric Sleeve Scars

Image source: Anthony Clough General, Upper GI & Bariatric Surgeon

Multi-port laparoscopic gastric sleeve scar pictures:

Gastric Sleeve Scars

Image source: Cleveland Clinic

Gastric Sleeve ScarsGastric Sleeve Scars

Image source: ObesityHelp

Open Surgery Gastric Sleeve Scars – Worst

When gastric sleeve surgery was first used in 1988, it was accomplished through open surgery requiring a large incision across the abdomen. This left a significant scar and put the patient at a higher risk of complications.

Open surgery is almost never performed anymore, unless there is an emergency.

Open surgery gastric sleeve scar picture:

Gastric Sleeve Scars

Image source: Cleveland Clinic

02How to Minimize Scarring
  • Follow incision care instructions
  • Follow dietary guidelines
  • Follow exercise recommendations
  • Don’t smoke
  • Avoid alcohol and caffeine
  • Get plenty of rest
  • Monitor for warning signs
  • Avoid sun exposure

There are 4 types of scars from gastric sleeve surgery that you take action to avoid following surgery:

  • Hypertrophic scars – Scars that are raised above the level of your skin
  • Keloid – Scars that extend beyond the edges of your incisions
  • Larger than necessary scars – Result from larger wounds resulting from infection or re-opened incisions
  • Discolored and thicker scars – Result from sun exposure

To minimize the risk of these types of gastric sleeve scars from forming:

  1. Follow your surgeon’s incision care instructions – Keep your incisions clean and covered by:
    • Gently washing them with soap and water (no scrubbing or soaking)
    • Air dry them or pat dry with a clean towel
    • Dress the incisions with sterile bandages/wound dressing
    • Don’t pick at your scabs (they will fall off when they’re ready)
    • Talk with your surgeon about what you can apply to minimize scarring. Options include silicone sheeting or one of many scar-minimizing creams, lotions, ointments, or natural substances like raw honey or aloe vera.
  2. Follow your dietitian’s instructions to the letter – Appropriate diet, bariatric vitamins, and liquid intake is crucial towards helping your body to heal itself.
  3. Follow your surgeon’s exercise recommendations – This will promote blood flow that will help your wounds heal faster which will reduce scarring. However, don’t overdo it, as you do not want to stretch your skin to the point that your incisions pull apart or break open.
  4. Don’t smoke – Smoking prevents oxygen from getting to your wounds which will make your scars worse. Smoking may even cause your wounds to re-open, leading to even larger scars.
  5. Don’t drink alcohol and avoid caffeine – They can cause dehydration which will hinder healing.
  6. Rest – Get plenty of sleep, and don’t overdo your exercise while your incisions are healing. Your body’s healing response performs best when you are fully rested.
  7. Warning signs – Contact your surgeon immediately if the area around your incisions turns bright red, if your incisions have excessive leaking, or any fluid leaking from your incisions changes color or thickness. These signs may mean there is an infection. If you don’t treat quickly, it is likely that your scars will be worse and that you could face serious medical issues.
  8. Protect your scars from the sun – by covering them up or by using sunscreen. Overexposure to the sun can cause your scars to change color and cause scar tissue to thicken.

03Gastric Sleeve Scar Removal
  • Usually not necessary with minimally invasive techniques
  • Scar removal treatment options: Steroid injections or plastic surgery

Single-incision laparoscopic procedures are often “invisible”, and most patients find that the small scars left after multi-port laparoscopic gastric sleeve surgery are minor enough to not warrant any special treatment or removal.

If you received an open procedure or have larger-than-normal multi-port scars, you may be a candidate for one of the following scar removal techniques:

  • Steroid injections
  • Plastic surgery

Neither technique will completely remove the scar, but both can greatly improve your scar’s appearance.

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04Internal Gastric Sleeve Scarring (Abdominal Adhesions)
  • Bands of scarring that form between abdominal tissue and internal organs
  • Symptoms: Chronic abdominal pain
  • Complications: Bowel obstruction and female infertility
  • How to Avoid: Much less likely with single-incision or multi-port laparoscopic techniques

During the gastric sleeve procedure, internal organs are moved around. This can lead to internal scarring, also called adhesions, which can cause your organs to stick to each other or to the walls of the abdomen.

The formation of abdominal adhesions is common and, for the most part, doesn’t cause any problems. In some cases, however, they can cause intestinal blockage or bowel obstruction.

Symptoms of internal scar tissue from gastric sleeve surgery include:

  • Intermittent bouts of crampy abdominal pain
  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal swelling
  • Inability to pass gas
  • Constipation
  • Signs of dehydration

Patients who experience mild abdominal cramping from time to time can often ease this discomfort by going on a liquid diet for a 24-hour period.

To find out whether you have a bowel obstruction caused by an adhesion, your surgeon will order a CT scan or X-ray of your abdominal cavity. Surgery is the only way to break up the adhesion and fix the blockage.

The best way to avoid abdominal adhesions is by using minimally invasive single-incision or multi-port laparoscopic surgical techniques. They reduce the risk of adhesions by:

  • Reducing the risk of blood and blood clotting
  • Helping to prevent the organs from drying out by touching the air or surgical gloves

05Help & Support
  • Patient Experiences
  • Ask the Expert

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