Scars from heart surgery

Heart surgery leaves a distinctive mark that can be challenging to accept. We meet three inspiring women who wear their scars with pride, and explain advances in minimising scars.

Women who wear their heart surgery scars with pride

André Simon, Consultant Cardiac Surgeon at Royal Brompton Hospital, tells us how heart surgery has developed during his 21-year career. “There has been a drive towards minimally invasive surgery for a while. We developed minimally invasive ventricular assist device (VAD) transplantation in the last five years. We open both sides of the chest with small incisions – less than 2cm – and we don't go through the sternum [breastbone] at all. 

“In mitral valve surgery, you operate on the patient from the right side via a very small incision, almost a keyhole, and you use lights inside the chest. With the VAD transplantation, we open both sides of the chest. This has upsides because if you transplant these patients at a later point, or have another heart operation, you don't have to deal with the risks of opening the breastbone twice. 

“Patients are better afterwards: they heal quicker so get up and go home quicker; they have fewer wound-healing complications; and, as you don’t have to go through the sternum, for many, you can't really see the scars. 

“Minimally invasive surgery is more expensive, more complex and it takes quite a bit longer, but there is no reason why it cannot be done.”

André Simon’s scar care tips

  1. Keep it dry and clean. Leave it alone, don't peel things off. If there is a discharge, clean it with water and use a sterile wound dressing.
  2. You shouldn’t do any strenuous work while you wait for the bone to heal and exercise may crack the sternum. Although the bone is attached with titanium wires, you have to wait for 2–3 months until this is fully healed.
  3. You can’t do much with ointments to make the scar smaller. The main reason to put something on the scar is if it itches.

Our three inspiring ladies found their beautiful outfits in BHF shops. Find your nearest shop.