Management of keloids and hypertrophic scars

Am Fam Physician. 2009 Aug 1;80(3):253-60.


Keloids and hypertrophic scars represent an exuberant healing response that poses a challenge for physicians. Patients at high risk of keloids are usually younger than 30 years and have darker skin. Sternal skin, shoulders and upper arms, earlobes, and cheeks are most susceptible to developing keloids and hypertrophic scars. High-risk trauma includes burns, ear piercing, and any factor that prolongs wound healing. Keloid formation often can be prevented if anticipated with immediate silicone elastomer sheeting, taping to reduce skin tension, or corticosteroid injections. Once established, however, keloids are difficult to treat, with a high recurrence rate regardless of therapy. Evidence supports silicone sheeting, pressure dressings, and corticosteroid injections as first-line treatments. Cryotherapy may be useful, but should be reserved for smaller lesions. Surgical removal of keloids poses a high recurrence risk unless combined with one or several of these standard therapies. Alternative postsurgical options for refractory scars include pulsed dye laser, radiation, and possibly imiquimod cream. Intralesional verapamil, fluorouracil, bleomycin, and interferon alfa-2b injections appear to be beneficial for treatment of established keloids. Despite the popularity of over-the-counter herb-based creams, the evidence for their use is mixed, and there is little evidence that vitamin E is helpful.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bleomycin / therapeutic use
  • Cicatrix, Hypertrophic / etiology*
  • Cicatrix, Hypertrophic / therapy*
  • Cryotherapy
  • Fluorouracil / therapeutic use
  • Glucocorticoids / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Keloid / etiology*
  • Keloid / therapy*
  • Recurrence
  • Risk Factors
  • Time Factors
  • Tocopherols / therapeutic use
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Verapamil / therapeutic use
  • Wound Healing


  • Glucocorticoids
  • Bleomycin
  • Verapamil
  • Tocopherols
  • Fluorouracil