Annals of the Royal College of Surgeons of England

Biodynamic excisional skin tension lines for surgical excisions: untangling the science.

PMID 29543064


Objective There remains confusion between Langer's lines and wrinkle lines with respect to the optimal orientation of elliptical excisions on the trunk. This study sought to determine the directions of wound closure that would result in least wound tension after skin lesion excisions. Materials and methods Some 1181 consecutive skin lesion excisions were investigated (age range 13-95 years, median 64 years) using a tensiometer to determine directions of least wound tension. These lines were mapped. Skin tension measurements were taken during the procedure and analysed. The clear majority of excisions were for skin cancer and the others were for cysts or dysplastic naevi. Lesions such as lipomas, which entail incisional rather than excisional surgery (i.e. where overlying skin was not excised) were excluded. All lesions were cut out in a circular fashion following tension measurements. Closure was undertaken in the direction of least tension (biodynamic excisional skin tension line) and this was illustrated. This process was repeated in all cases where body site and direction of closure was mapped. Statistical analyses were undertaken on a series on the scalp and lower limb. Results Biodynamic excisional skin tension lines have a clear directional preference: scalp-coronal direction, limbs--vertical orientation of ellipses and trunk - mostly horizontal except oblique at the shoulder and scapular regions. Discussion Skin cancer excisions often end up with poor cosmetic results, owing to inconsistency in identifying the correct excisional wound closure lines. This has not been helped by the (hitherto) lack of large in vivo biomechanical studies, and because incisional lines and excisional lines have not been considered separately in surgical practice. Orientating ellipses or wound closures using biodynamic excisional skin tension lines offers a guide to reducing wound tension and minimising wound complications or scarring after cutaneous surgery.

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2-(Trimethylsilyl)ethanethiol, 95%