Subcision of Acne Scars – Revisiting an Old Technique
Acne scarring is a significant psychologically debilitating disease affecting millions in the US, approximately 1% of the adult population in one study. Treatments for acne scars include:
- RF Microneedling
- TCA Cross
- PRP (Platelet Rich Plasma)
- PDO Threads (?)
Most of these techniques are based on trying to make the disorganized collagen in the scar to be more organized and natural. Using carefully induced tissue trauma with heat or microneedles (mechanical), the body initiates a healing process to smooth the scars.
Acne scars will often affect tissues deeper than the dermis. Fibrosis/scarring can affect the subcutaneous tissues and fat and lead to tethering of scar to the deeper structures. Lipoatrophy (fat loss) can occur as the result of the inflammatory mediators released from the acneic process. When heating from lasers and RF is applied, it is preferentially conducted through the collagen because the water content of collagen is high. Heating collagen will lead to collagen remodeling but also collagen contraction. If the collagenous attachments to the deeper tissue are not cut (subcised), there is actually potential for worsening the appearance of the scars with these heating devices.
A recent paper suggested that using a cannula to subcise acne scars is better tolerated, with less adverse events, and judged to have better results by the patients. This is Dr. Weiner’s (and acne scar expert Dr. Davin Lim’s per personal communication) preferred method of subcision vs using a Nokor needle. By subcising, the energy flow to the deeper structures is severed and harm to fat is less as is the risk of pulling some scars deeper. Placement of filler (Restylane Defyne, Bellafill) is often done simultaneously with the subcision to help elevate the scars and prevent reattachment of the scars.
Subcision has been around for decades for acne scar treatment. It is now even more important when energy devices are used to maximize the benefits of these treatments. The use of cannulas for this procedure leads to more comfort, less risks, and better satisfaction.
The Aesthetic Clinique has been designated an Acne Scar Center of Excellence by Suneva (Bellafill) and is considered an acne scar expert.
**(Subcision is also useful for treating cellulite as there are fibrous attachments from the skin which cause the dimpling.)