Low doses of superficial radiation are sometimes used to treat scars. In particular, radiotherapy can help prevent the recurrence of raised hypertrophic and keloid scars. However, due to its potential for long-term side effects, radiotherapy is reserved for the most severe cases of these scars, those that have not responded to other existing treatments like steroid injections or dermabrasion.
Radiotherapy employs the use of high-powered x-rays or radioactive seeds and is often used to treat cancer because of its ability to shrink tumors and kill cancerous cells. It is also used after surgical removal of tumors and growths to prevent their recurrence.
Radiotherapy can produce many side effects, including hair loss, painful skin, burning, skin atrophy, low blood count and increased susceptibility to infection, nausea and difficulty swallowing. The severity of these side effects depends on the dosage, where on the body it used, and how deep the radiotherapy penetrates.
Since the radiotherapy used for keloids and hypertrophic scars is close to the surface and is lower-dose, the side effects are not typically as pronounced as with other types. However, since the risk of long-term effects is still greater than with other scar treatments, even low-dose radiotherapy is usually used for the most severe cases.
Last updated: 05-Dec-08