Elastic fibers in scar tissue


J. Bhawan, M.D., Dermatopathology Section, Boston University School of Medicine, 609 Albany Street, Boston, MA 02118, USA


The capacity of the skin to be stretched and to return to its resting position is correlated to the quantity and to the quality of the elastic fiber network. Although elastic fibers have been demonstrated in scars, the time course of their appearance in scars and their role in scar elasticity has not been elucidated. A study was therefore undertaken to evaluate the elastic fiber network in scars.

The scars studied were from re-excision specimens following a biopsy performed for a benign or a malignant process. A total of 182 scars were evaluated in patients of different age groups. Miller's elastic tissue stain, considered to be superior to Verhoeff's van Giesen stain, was used. No elastic fibers were detected in any of 116 scars which were of less than 3 months' duration. In 66 scars present for over 3 months, a progressive increase in elastic fibers was present, first as focal and thin fibers, then as diffuse and thicker fibers. For scars of the same duration, a regional difference was noted in that scars from the back contained more and thicker elastic fibers than those from the cheek. When patients were stratified according to age, no appreciable difference was noted in the density of elastic fibers in both new and old scars between the different age groups. These results show that the synthesis of elastic tissue fibers in scars is a function of duration and site of the scar.