Assessing quality of healing in skin: Review of available methods and devices

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Abstract

The process of wound healing is dynamic and takes place over months to years, during which there is a resolution of angiogenesis, continued wound contraction, and connective tissue remodeling. The outcome of this process is most commonly the formation of a scar, defined as a fibrous tissue replacing normal tissues destroyed by injury or disease. Scars often have a lowered or total loss of vital skin functions and imbue a large burden on both the patient and the health care system as a whole. Scar treatments are plentiful but are often unsatisfactory or inconsistent. No single treatment method has been universally adopted. To evaluate the clinical treatment as well as research focused on developing novel methods for scar management, objective studies of the progression of scar formation and the properties of mature scars are needed. Several parameters, including barrier function as well as mechanical and physiological properties, need to be taken into account when both categorizing and treating healing wounds and scars. To date, there is no available methodology that provides a comprehensive evaluation of a scar's properties. This review aims at presenting an overview of available scar assessment methods and devices, ranging from analysis of collagen properties in tissue biopsies to noninvasive methods for studies of mechanical parameters such as breaking strength and skin elasticity. In the cases where conclusive studies have been performed, the differences between normal skin and scar with respect to the above parameters are presented. Furthermore, this review highlights areas where the development of additional modalities are needed.

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