Failure of topical steroids and vitamin E to reduce postoperative scar formation following reconstructive surgery

J Burn Care Rehabil. Jul-Aug 1986;7(4):309-12. doi: 10.1097/00004630-198607000-00002.


One hundred fifty-nine operative procedures for postburn contractures of interdigital webs (96), the axilla (46), or the neck (17) were prospectively randomized to be treated postoperatively for four months with a topical steroid (Aristocort A), topical vitamin E, or the base cream carrier for these drugs. The nature of the medication was blinded both to the patient and to the evaluator. Patients were followed for one year. Observations were made for range of motion, scar thickness, change in graft size, and ultimate cosmetic appearance. No beneficial effect of either vitamin E or topical steroid could be demonstrated. However, adverse reactions occurred in 16.4% of patients receiving active drug, compared to 5.9% treated only with base cream. Interestingly, the grafts initially contracted and subsequently grew to be a size larger (about 20%) than the original graft by one year. It is concluded that neither topical steroid nor topical vitamin E is effective in reducing scar formation after grafting procedures for reconstruction for postburn contractures.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Topical
  • Burns / complications
  • Cicatrix / prevention & control*
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Contracture / surgery
  • Humans
  • Ointments
  • Postoperative Complications / prevention & control*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Random Allocation
  • Steroids / administration & dosage*
  • Surgery, Plastic*
  • Vitamin E / administration & dosage*


  • Ointments
  • Steroids
  • Vitamin E