Patient and Physician Assessment of Surgical Scars: A Systematic Review

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ImportanceSurgical scarring affects patients by distracting the gaze of onlookers, disrupting social interactions, and impairing psychosocial health. Patient and physician agreement regarding ideal scar characteristics is important in developing congruent expectations after surgery.ObjectiveTo summarize published studies assessing patient and physician ratings of surgical scars, rates of patient and physician agreement in scar assessment, and elements of cutaneous scar assessment that differ between patients and physicians.Evidence ReviewA literature search of Ovid/Medline, PubMed, and EMBASE was conducted from January 1, 1972, to August 1, 2015. Prospective studies comparing scars from different surgical techniques using at least 1 physician-reported and patient-reported scar measure were included. Strength of studies was graded according to the Oxford Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine guidelines.FindingsThe review identified 29 studies comprising 4485 patients. Of the 29 included studies, 20 (69%) were randomized clinical trials (RCTs), 5 (17%) were prospective, nonrandomized studies, and 4 (14%) were descriptive studies. Disagreement between patients and physician evaluation of scars occurred in 28% (8 of 29) studies, with only patients rating scar difference in 75% (6 of 8) of these cases. Patients were more likely to value scar depth while physicians were more likely to value scar pigmentation and relief.Conclusions and RelevanceMethodologically rigorous studies that include clinician- and patient-reported scar outcomes are uncommon. Studies that incorporate subjective and objective scar grading reveal disagreement between patients and clinicians. Of the incision and wound closure techniques assessed, few affected patient- and clinician-reported outcomes, but the evidence remains weak and future studies are recommended.

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