Gastric sleeve surgery is a popular bariatric procedure that aids in weight loss by reducing the size of the stomach. While the surgery has numerous benefits, including improved health and quality of life, patients often have concerns about the potential scarring that may result from the procedure.

Scarring is a natural part of the healing process after any surgery. During gastric sleeve surgery, several small incisions are made on your abdomen. These incisions allow the surgeon to insert a laparoscope and other surgical instruments necessary to remove a portion of your stomach and reshape it into a smaller “sleeve.” However, these incisions do leave behind scars.

In this article, we will explore what patients can expect regarding scars before and after gastric sleeve surgery, and discuss ways to minimize their appearance.

Before and After Gastric Sleeve Scars| Your Guide to Quick Recovery

6 Types and Appearance of Gastric Sleeve Surgery Scars

The appearance of gastric sleeve surgery scars is not static and it evolves over time as part of the natural healing process. These scars can vary significantly in size, shape, and color. Some individuals have minimal scarring that is barely noticeable, others may develop more prominent scars. Each person’s body reacts differently to the surgery, resulting in unique scar formations. Some of these factors include:

1- Size

Scars are typically located on the abdomen area where the incisions were made. The size of these scars can range from small marks to larger areas of discoloration.

2- Shape

The shape of gastric sleeve surgery scars can also differ based on the technique employed by the surgeon. Common types of scars include:

  • Linear (straight line): Linear scars are often seen when a single long incision is made during the procedure.
  • Circular (round shape): Circular scars result from smaller incisions made using a laparoscopic approach, where specialized tools are inserted through tiny openings in the abdomen.
  • T-shaped incisions: A T-shaped scar might sometimes be present if an additional vertical incision is necessary.

3- Color

Furthermore, gastric sleeve surgery scars can exhibit various colors during different stages of healing. Initially, fresh scars tend to appear pink or red due to increased blood flow in the area. Over time, these colors usually fade into lighter shades like white or silver as collagen production increases and healing progresses.

4- Skin type

Different skin types have varying levels of elasticity and pigmentation, which can influence how scars form and fade. For instance, individuals with darker skin tones may experience more noticeable scarring due to increased melanin production.

5- Body’s healing capabilities

While some people have a natural tendency to heal with minimal scarring, others may develop hypertrophic or keloid scars. Hypertrophic scars are raised and thickened, while keloid scars extend beyond the boundaries of the original incision site. These types of scars can be more challenging to manage and may require additional treatment options.

6- Sun exposure

Prolonged exposure to sunlight without proper protection can cause scars to darken and become more pronounced. Therefore, it is essential to protect surgical scars from direct sunlight by using sunscreen or covering them with clothing.

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Incisions and Scarring

Like any surgical procedure, gastric sleeve surgery leaves behind scars. However, regardless of the specific approach taken by the surgeon, minimizing visible scars is always a priority.

Abdominal or Upper Chest Scars

In most cases, these scars are found either on the abdomen or upper chest area. The choice between these two areas is determined by individual factors unique to each patient. If your surgeon opts for an abdominal incision, this type of scar typically runs horizontally across your abdomen, although its length may vary depending on several factors such as body size and excess skin removal requirements. While this scar will be visible, it often fades over time and becomes less noticeable.

On the other hand, some surgeons may choose to perform a single-incision gastric sleeve surgery. This approach involves making a small incision within your belly button, resulting in a scar that is cleverly hidden from plain sight. By strategically placing the incision in this manner, surgeons aim to minimize scarring visibility while still achieving successful weight loss outcomes.

Impact of Incision Location and Number on Scarring

By making small incisions strategically placed in less noticeable areas, surgeons aim to ensure that post-surgery scars are discrete and easily concealable. This helps patients feel more confident about their appearance after undergoing gastric sleeve surgery.

Importance of Small Incisions for Minimal Scarring

Large incisions can result in more prominent scars that may take longer to fade or be more difficult to hide under clothing. Small incisions not only minimize visible scarring but also offer other benefits. They require less time for healing compared to larger ones since they involve fewer layers of tissue being cut through. Smaller wounds generally have a lower risk of complications such as infection.

Reducing Excessive Scarring with Proper Wound Care

After surgery, patients should follow their surgeon’s instructions regarding wound care. Following these guidelines can help prevent infection and promote optimal healing, ultimately reducing the likelihood of prominent scars. There are other steps patients can take to minimize scarring. These include:

  • Applying silicone gel or sheets: Silicone-based products have been shown to improve scar appearance by hydrating the skin and creating a protective barrier.
  • Massaging the scar tissue: Gentle massage techniques can help break down scar tissue and promote better blood circulation, leading to improved scar appearance over time.
  • Protecting scars from sun exposure: Ultraviolet (UV) radiation can darken scars and make them more noticeable. It is important for patients to protect their scars from direct sunlight by using sunscreen or covering them with clothing when outdoors.
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Factors Influencing Scar Placement:

Surgical TechniqueThe approach used by the surgeon determines scar placement.
Surgeon’s SkillExpertise plays a crucial role in incision placement during surgery to achieve minimal scarring
Body AnatomyThe patient’s individual body anatomy affects scar location and visibility.
Incision TypeDifferent procedures require specific incisions, impacting scar placement.
Pre-existing ScarringPrior scars may influence new scar placement decisions.
Patient’s PreferencePatient specific concerns can be considered for scar visibility concerns.
Medical NecessitySome conditions dictate scar placement for surgical access.
Wound TensionCareful placement reduces tension and minimizes scar prominence.
Healing TendencyIndividual healing rates influence scar formation.
Post-operative CareProper wound management affects final scar appearance.
Factors Influencing Scar
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Immediate Post-Operative Phase

After undergoing gastric sleeve surgery, patients enter the immediate post-operative phase. During this period, specific care is taken to ensure proper healing of the incision sites and minimize any discomfort or complications that may arise.

Incision Closure and Dressings

Immediately after the surgical procedure, the surgeon closes the incision sites using either sutures or staples. These closure methods are chosen based on various factors, including the surgeon’s preference and the patient’s specific needs. Sutures involve stitching the skin together using a thread-like material, while staples use metal clips to hold the edges of the incision in place.

To protect the wounds during the initial healing phase, dressings or bandages are applied over the incision sites. These dressings serve multiple purposes: they provide a barrier against external contaminants, absorb any drainage or fluid from the wounds, and offer support to reduce tension on the incisions. The type of dressing used may vary depending on individual circumstances and surgeon preference.

Swelling, Redness, and Tenderness

It is common for patients to experience some degree of swelling, redness, or tenderness around the surgical site immediately after gastric sleeve surgery. This is a normal part of the body’s natural healing response to trauma caused by open surgery. Swelling occurs as blood flow increases to aid in tissue repair and regeneration.

Redness around the incision sites can be attributed to increased blood flow as well as inflammation caused by tissue damage during surgery. It is important to note that mild redness is expected; however, if it worsens or is accompanied by other concerning symptoms such as excessive pain or discharge from the wound, it should be promptly reported to your healthcare provider.

Tenderness at and around the surgical site can also be expected during this phase. The body perceives trauma as an injury and responds with sensitivity in order to protect itself. As healing progresses over time, these symptoms typically subside gradually.

Care and Follow-up

During the immediate post-operative phase, it is crucial to follow the care instructions provided by your healthcare provider. These instructions may include:

  1. Wound care: You will be given specific guidelines on how to clean and dress the incision sites. It is important to keep the wounds clean and dry to prevent infection. Your healthcare provider will advise you on when it is safe to remove the dressings or bandages.
  2. Pain management: Pain medication may be prescribed to help manage any discomfort experienced during this phase. It is important to take these medications as directed by your healthcare provider and report any severe or persistent pain.
  3. Activity restrictions: Your surgeon may recommend limiting certain activities during the immediate post-operative phase to allow for proper healing. This could include avoiding heavy lifting or strenuous exercise for a specified period of time.
  4. Follow-up appointments: Regular follow-up appointments with your surgeon are essential for monitoring your progress and addressing any concerns that may arise during the recovery process. These appointments allow your healthcare team to assess healing, remove sutures or staples if necessary, and provide guidance on transitioning into subsequent phases of your recovery journey.
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Scarring Progression

Factors such as genetics, age, overall health, and wound care practices can influence how scars heal and mature. It is important to have realistic expectations and understand that complete healing and final scar appearance may require patience.

Initial Healing Stage

  • In the first few weeks following gastric sleeve surgery, scars typically go through an initial healing stage. During this time, it is not uncommon for scars to appear raised, pink, or even slightly itchy. This is a natural part of the healing process as your body begins to repair itself.
  • The pink coloration of scars is caused by increased blood flow to the area as part of the body’s inflammatory response. This increased blood flow helps deliver essential nutrients and oxygen necessary for proper wound healing. Some individuals may experience itchiness around their scars due to nerve regeneration or mild irritation from clothing rubbing against them.

Scar Maturation

  • As time progresses, you will notice significant changes in your gastric sleeve surgery scars. The raised appearance will gradually flatten out as collagen production normalizes and becomes more balanced. This reduction in collagen can lead to a smoother texture as well.
  • Moreover, scar coloration tends to fade over time as well. Initially, pink or reddish scars will gradually transition towards lighter shades such as pale pink or white.

Full Scar Maturation

  • Full scar maturation is a gradual process that can take up to 12 months or longer. During the scar maturation process, collagen continues to remodel and reorganize. As a result, scars become less noticeable and blend in better with the surrounding skin. The coloration of scars further lightens, although they may never completely match your natural skin tone.

Minimizing and Reducing Scarring after Gastric Sleeve Surgery

Each person’s skin reacts differently; therefore, it is essential to consult with your surgeon about suitable products for scar prevention during your recovery. Tips for Minimizing Scarring After Gastric Sleeve Surgery:

  • Protect scars from sun exposure.
  • Gently massage the healing scars.
  • Keep the incision area clean and dry.
  • Avoid picking or scratching the scabs.
  • Take prescribed medications as instructed.
  • Maintain a healthy diet and stay hydrated.
  • Avoid smoking and limit alcohol consumption.
  • Follow your surgeon’s wound care instructions.
  • Use silicone sheets or gels to reduce scar visibility.
  • Attend follow-up appointments with your surgeon.
  • Consider additional scar management options if needed.
  • Avoid heavy lifting or strenuous exercise for a specific period.
  • Gently wash the incision area with mild soap and warm water daily.
  • Apply a thin layer of moisturizer onto clean, dry skin surrounding the incision site.

Managing Expectations for Scars after Bariatric Surgery

  • Having realistic expectations about scarring after gastric sleeve surgery is crucial for emotional healing and overall satisfaction with the results. While it is natural to be concerned about how your body will look post-surgery, understanding the typical progression of bariatric surgery scars can help alleviate any anxiety or uncertainty you may have.
  • Scarring is an inevitable outcome of any surgical procedure, including bariatric surgery. By focusing on the positive changes happening within your body rather than fixating solely on external appearances, you can better manage your expectations for scarring after gastric sleeve surgery.
  • Every individual’s body reacts differently to surgical procedures, and this applies to scarring as well. Your surgeon can give you an idea of what to expect in terms of scar appearance and fading timeline based on their experience with previous patients who underwent similar procedures.

Advantages of Single Incision Gastric Sleeve Surgery and Scarring

Single-incision gastric sleeve surgery involves making just one small incision, typically in the navel area. This advantages include:

  1. Minimized scarring
  2. Improved cosmetic outcome
  3. Less pain and discomfort
  4. Shorter recovery time
  5. Reduced risk of complications
  6. Quicker return to normal activities
  7. Surgeons specializing in this technique offer refined skills and precision.
  8. Increased patient satisfaction with a single, less noticeable scar.

While single-incision gastric sleeve surgery offers these advantages in terms of scarring and recovery, not all patients may be suitable candidates for this technique. The decision to opt for a single incision or traditional multi-port surgery should be made after a thorough evaluation of the patient’s individual needs and the surgeon’s expertise.

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Long-Term Scar Management

Taking care of your scars is crucial for their long-term appearance. One effective way to promote healing is by regularly applying moisturizers or creams specifically designed for scar management. These products help keep the scar tissue hydrated, which can lead to softer and less noticeable scars over time.

Moisturizers and creams work by providing essential nutrients and hydration to the skin, allowing it to heal properly. They also help prevent dryness, which can make scars more prominent. To apply the moisturizer or cream, gently massage it into the scar using circular motions. This helps improve blood circulation in the area and encourages new collagen production, which is essential for the natural healing process of the skin.

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Another option that might be discussed is the use of advanced therapies like micro needling or chemical peels. These treatments stimulate collagen production and encourage skin regeneration, leading to improved texture and appearance of scars over time. Your healthcare professional will evaluate your specific case and guide you towards the most suitable treatment option based on their expertise.

Healing Time for Gastric Sleeve Surgery Scars

Generally, scars go through several stages of healing over the course of several months. Here’s a general timeline:

Immediate Post-Operative Phase (0-2 weeks): During the first two weeks after surgery, the incisions will be fresh and may appear red, swollen, and slightly raised. Patients are advised to keep the incision areas clean and dry during this time to prevent infection.

Scar Maturation Phase (2-6 weeks): Over the next few weeks, the scars will start to mature and gradually flatten. The redness and swelling should begin to subside, and the scars may become less noticeable.

Scar Fading Phase (6 weeks – 6 months): From around six weeks to six months after surgery, the scars will continue to fade and blend in with the surrounding skin. They may change in color, becoming lighter and less prominent.

Final Healing (6 months – 1 year): By the six-month mark, the scars should be significantly improved in appearance, but the final healing process may continue for up to a year. At this point, most scars will have faded and become quite inconspicuous.

Multiport Laparoscopic Scars in Gastric Sleeve Surgery

Multiport laparoscopic gastric sleeve surgery is a minimally invasive technique that involves making multiple small incisions on the abdomen. These incisions, also known as ports, allow the surgeon to insert specialized instruments and a camera to perform the surgery.

The use of multiport laparoscopic techniques offers several advantages over traditional open surgeries. One significant benefit is the reduced size of the incisions. In most cases, these incisions are less than an inch in length, resulting in minimal scarring compared to larger open incisions. The smaller size of the scars can be particularly appealing for individuals concerned about their appearance after surgery.

Embracing Your New Body with Confidence

The good news is that there are numerous ways to embrace your scars and feel confident in your new body. Here are some practical steps you can take:

  1. Shift Your Perspective: Instead of focusing on what your body used to look like, celebrate the progress you have made towards a healthier lifestyle. Recognize the strength it took to undergo gastric sleeve surgery and appreciate the positive changes it has brought about in your life.
  2. Accepting Your Scars: Embracing your scars is an ongoing process that requires patience, self-compassion, and time. These marks are a testament to the strength and resilience you have shown throughout your recovery.
  3. Sharing Experiences: Connecting with people who have undergone similar experiences allows you to share stories, exchange tips for scar care, and gain insights into coping mechanisms.
  4. Find Support: Joining support groups or seeking counseling services can provide guidance and emotional support during this transformative journey. Connecting with others who have undergone similar experiences helps normalize feelings of self-consciousness and encourages self-acceptance.
  5. Prioritize Self-Care: Establish a routine for scar care that includes gentle massage, moisturizing, and protection from excessive sun exposure. Taking care of your scars not only promotes physical healing but also fosters a sense of self-love and acceptance.
  6. Dress Confidently: Experiment with clothing styles that make you feel comfortable and empowered. Embrace fashion choices that highlight your favorite features while still prioritizing comfort.
  7. Practice Positive Affirmations: Remind yourself daily of your worth beyond physical appearance. Engage in positive self-talk and focus on all the amazing qualities that make you unique.


In conclusion, Remember that gastric sleeve is not just about physical transformation but also an opportunity for personal growth and improved health. While it’s natural to have concerns about scarring after gastric sleeve surgery, managing expectations by understanding the typical progression of scars and following appropriate scar management techniques can help you embrace your journey towards a healthier lifestyle.

Consulting with your surgeon will provide personalized guidance based on your unique circumstances, ensuring you feel confident throughout every stage of the healing process. Patients can take an active role in scar care by following their surgeon’s post-operative instructions, adopting scar management techniques, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Embracing the healing journey and being patient with the scar maturation process can lead to greater self-acceptance and confidence in one’s body image.

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Initially, the scars will be visible, but they tend to fade over time. Proper scar management and care can help minimize their appearance and make them less noticeable.

Complete removal of gastric sleeve surgery scars is unlikely; however, various methods exist to reduce their visibility. Discuss these options with your surgeon to find the most suitable approach for you.

Yes, there are several scar care techniques to aid in the healing process. These may include keeping the incision area clean, applying scar creams or silicone sheets, and massaging the scars gently.

It is essential to discuss any concerns you have about scarring with your surgeon before the procedure. Understanding the process and potential outcomes can help ease anxiety.

It’s natural to feel concerned about the appearance of scars, but it’s essential to remember that the surgery aims to improve overall health and well-being. Embracing the journey to a healthier you can help boost self-confidence.

Individual factors such as genetics, age, and overall health can influence scar healing. Following post-operative care instructions diligently can also contribute to better scar healing.