Subcision is a minor in-office surgical procedure that’s used to treat acne scars.
It involves inserting a small needle into your skin to release the acne scar from the underlying tissue. This allows your skin to rise and to diminish the appearance of the acne scar.
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at what subcision is, what you can expect if you have this treatment, and how much it costs.
Subcision is an incisionless surgical technique. It can be used to improve the appearance of:
- depressed scars
Although subscision is most often used to treat acne scars, it may also help reduce scars caused by other conditions, like:
With this procedure, a dermatologist inserts a hypodermic needle into your skin directly beneath the scar. The needle is used to loosen and break the fibers that connect the scar to the tissue underneath it.
This process not only helps to lift a depressed scar, it also triggers the release of collagen at the site of the needle insertion.
Both the lifting of the scar and the release of collagen can help diminish the appearance of the scar.
This procedure is usually repeated three to six times with at least 4 weeks in between each treatment.
Subcision isn’t suitable for all types of acne scars. For instance, it might not be helpful in treating raised (hypertrophic) scars and keloid scars.
People who take oral retinoids and who live with the following conditions may be cautioned against this procedure:
While there isn’t a lot of research exploring the effectiveness of subcision, a few studies suggest that it can permanently improve acne scarring, according to a 2010 research review.
A small 2005 study investigated the use of subcision to treat rolling acne scars among 40 participants.
The researchers reported that although the scars were not completely healed, 90 percent of patients reported an improvement in the appearance of their scars.
Next, a small 2016 study compared three acne scar treatments among 45 participants. The three treatments included:
- derma rollers
- CO2 fractional laser
Of the three treatments that were tested, the physicians rated subcision as the most successful.
The authors of the study concluded that subcision is an effective and affordable option to reduce the appearance of acne scarring.
Larger studies are needed to learn more about the efficacy and safety of subcision.
Subcision is a generally performed in a dermatology clinic or office. It’s usually done as an outpatient procedure, which means you won’t be admitted to a hospital after the procedure is over.
Your dermatologist will explain the steps involved before you undergo the procedure.
Before starting the procedure, your dermatologist will clean the area around your scar. They will also apply a local anesthetic to freeze and numb your skin, so you won’t feel pain during the procedure.
Your dermatologist will then insert a needle horizontally into your skin, beneath the scar.
They will then gently move the needle from side to side under the scar to help release the scar from the underlying tissue. You may notice a soft snapping sound as your skin fibers are broken.
This process may be repeated depending on the size and shape of the scar. Once the procedure is over, manual pressure or ice will be applied to the wound site. This helps reduce bleeding and inflammation.
After the procedure, it’s quite common to have not only pain, but also swelling and bruising at the site of the injection. Less common side effects of subcision may include:
- an infection in or around the injection site
- skin discoloration
- injury to nerves or blood vessels around the scar
The pain, swelling, and bruising typically takes 1 to 2 weeks to heal. Your dermatologist may prescribe an antibiotic or anti-inflammatory to help with the healing process.
The number of treatment sessions you’ll need will depend on the severity of the scar, as well as your body’s ability to form scar tissue. It may take several months for the scar to become less visible.
The cost of subcision depends on a number of factors, including the clinic you chose and the number of sessions you’ll need to help diminish the appearance of your scar or scars.
In general, you can expect to pay between $200 to $400 per session. In total, it may cost up to $2,400.
If you have private health insurance, it may or may not cover subcision. It’ll depend on whether your insurance company considers this procedure to be medically necessary.
Even if it is medically necessary, you may still need to pay for a portion of the procedure.
Subcision is often recommended alongside other medical treatments to diminish the appearance of scars. These treatments may include:
- Topical retinoids. These prescription creams, which contain vitamin A, can help smooth out the appearance of scars.
- Microneedling. This in-office procedure uses tiny needles to stimulate the production of collagen.
- Dermabrasion. This technique involves using a wire brush to exfoliate your uppermost layer of skin. It’s most effective on shallow scars.
- Laser treatment. This treatment involves using lasers to remove your uppermost layer of skin and heal scarring.
- Chemical peels. Chemical peels also improve scarring by removing your uppermost layer of skin.
Subcision is a safe and effective outpatient procedure used to reduce the appearance of acne scars.
In this procedure, a small needle is used to “lift” the scar from the underlying tissue and to stimulate the production of collagen.
It isn’t suitable for all types of scars, but it may help with depressed scars and can be used alongside other treatments for acne scarring.
If you want to know more about subcision, talk with your doctor to find out if it’s right for you.