By Amanda Dolan for Scars1
Dr. Minas T. Chrysopoulo, MD is a board certified plastic surgeon and a leading specialist in DIEP flap reconstruction for women who have battled breast cancer and undergone mastectomy. He was raised and educated in London and received a degree from the University of London. He continued medical training at the University of Texas Health and Science center, and completed a fellowship in plastic and reconstructive surgery at the University of Wisconsin. He also completed fellowships at Shriner’s Burn Hospital for Children and at the Indiana Hand Center.
In addition, Dr. Chrysopoulo is certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery and serves as an active member of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), American Society for Reconstructive Microsurgery (ASRM), the Plastic Surgery Education Foundation (PSEF) and the San Antonio International Society of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. Dr. Chrysopoulo was also appointed to the National Board of Medical Examiners and to teaching positions at the University of Wisconsin’s Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery division. His research has been published in teaching textbooks and several top medical journals including Archives of Surgery. Recently, Dr. Chrysopoulo was a recipient of San Antonio Business Journals’ “Top 40 Under 40” award for his achievements related to breast reconstruction, minimally invasive surgery, and cosmetic and plastic surgery. He practices at PRMA in San Antonio, Texas. He has recently created a brand new scar therapy complex called Invicible, created by C&H Scientific LLC, a private company where he serves as Chief Science Officer.
Dr. Chrysopoulo’s fascination with plastic surgery stems from the inherently creative nature of the practice. To treat a patient, a plastic surgeon utilizes an array of different medical ideas and incorporates them all. As Dr. Chrysopoulo explains, when you need to “apply principles to fix something—a problem that no one knows how to fix—you call a plastic surgeon.” Intrigued by plastic surgery’s origins in wartime, as a teen Dr. Chrysopoulo pursued his interests by working closely with a mentoring plastic surgeon in London. After he became interested in practicing on his own, Dr. Chrysopoulo received wise advice from the same mentor to go to America to pursue his dream, starting with surgical training.
One of the most influential experiences for Dr. Chrysolpoulo was his fellowship at Shriners Burn Hospital for Children in Galveston, Texas, where he worked closely with burn victims. These children, some of whom had severe burns on 99% of their bodies, inspired Dr. Chrysopoulo and gave him his first real interaction with scars and the healing process of skin tissue. “As part of taking care of them, reading the literature, and seeing what works and what doesn’t work,” Dr. Chrysopoulo says, “I learned what works based on science.” He had what he calls a “phenomenal professional and learning experience.” From there, his work transitioned naturally from burns and microsurgery to performing reconstructive surgery for breast cancer survivors.
“Minmizing scars,” he says, “is already a philosophy in plastic surgery.” But Dr. Chrysopoulo makes it his personal goal to give women who receive reconstructive breast surgery the best results. He aims to provide the same end result for cancer survivors that other women receive from cosmetic surgery procedures—keeping external scarring to a minimum. “I see scars every day,” he says, “it’s part of my professional life. Even if [patients’] scars look pretty good, they still want to know what they can do to minimize them. And [many of] the topical treatments out there, quite frankly, don’t really work.” So, instead of readily recommending the same topical treatments as other plastic surgeons, Dr. Chrysopoulo decided to create his own. “Everything I learned from the burn portion of my career has gone into producing something for my own patients that works a lot better.” As a result, he formulated and created Invicible, his own scar therapy product.
By using the knowledge he acquired at Shriners about partial thickness burns and superficial burns, he believes in the efficacy of topical treatments. In the burn literature he studied, he found that certain treatments like aloe and essential fatty acids are proven effective. And, in terms of skin regeneration and collagen, he learned vitamin C improves the collagen that has formed. The orientation of the skin fibers of a scar is very random and haphazard, which causes the ugly scarring effect and vitamin C helps the skin to re-orientate the fibers.
Despite their appearance, scars are actually still living, growing skin. While other scar treatments try to knock out the newly formed scar collagen, Dr. Chrysopoulo prefers to work with the living skin to improve its appearance. The nearer a scar to typical skin, the more likely it will be faded and barely visible.
Dr. Chysopoulo’s advice for minimizing and improving the appearance of scars after surgery:
- The newer the scar, the better the result – start treatment within the first six months after surgery.
- Products with silicone, which positively impact the skin’s molecular components and provide a protective moisture barrier that helps improve the scar.
- Be wary of a lot of the products people recommend.
- Keep the scar clean and covered.
- Don’t use peroxide – that will kill all cells including those essential for healing.
- Use skin-friendly soaps when bathing. Watch out for irritants and allergens.
- Keep your scar covered with clothing. If it is exposed, use sun block. If you don’t, a scar that isn’t full mature (12-24 months), may suffer sun damage making the scar red permanently .
- Use a scar treatment as early as possible once the scar has healed – which takes approximately 2-3 weeks.
- Apply firm massage to the scar to help break down a thick scar that is forming and to keep skin pliable.
- Use a scar treatment that works until you no longer notice any improvement
- Avoid products containing Vitamin E (which is in many skin products as an antioxidant for anti-aging) because it gives 1 in 3 people contact dermatitis, which may cause inflammation and uglier scarring.
- Avoid steroids as they actually slow down healing.
More Dr. Chrysopoulo:
Read his feature story for Scars1 "Scar Healing Science - How Certain Scar Treatments Work"
Check out his breast reconstruction blog
Follow him on Twitter @mchrysopoulo and @InviCiblescars and follow Scars1 @scars1
Engage with others - Join the Scars1 Forums