Most patients who present to a dermatologist with a keloid say they want it gone “by whatever means possible, and yesterday,” although few understand what this process entails, according to Hilary E. Baldwin, MD, of Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, New Brunswick, N.J.

Hilary E. Baldwin, MD, Acne Treatment & Research Center, Morristown, NJ and Brooklyn, NY

Dr. Hilary E. Baldwin

A key point to keep in mind about keloids is that, while they result from trauma, however slight, trauma alone does not cause them, Dr. Baldwin said in a presentation at the virtual MedscapeLive’s annual Las Vegas Dermatology Seminar.

In general, people with darker skin form keloids more easily and consistently than those with lighter skin, but keloids in people with darker skin are often easier to treat, Dr. Baldwin added. Also worth noting is the fact that earlobe keloids recur less frequently, she said.

Most patients with keloids are not surgical candidates, and they need convincing to pursue alternative options, Dr. Baldwin said.

However, successful management of keloids starts with sorting out what the patient wants. Some want “eradication with normal skin,” which is not realistic, versus simply flattening, lightening, or eradication of the keloid and leaving a scar, she noted. “That skin is never going to look normal,” she said. “Very often, they don’t need the whole thing gone, they just want to be better, and not itch or cause them to think about it all the time.”

Quality clinical research on the management of keloids is limited, Dr. Baldwin continued. “If you are holding out for a good randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind study with a healthy ‘N,’ adequate follow-up rational conclusions, don’t hold your breath,” she said. The few literature reviews on keloids in recent decades concluded that modalities used to treat keloids are based on anecdotal evidence rather than rigorous research, she noted.

Size (and shape) matters

The decision to cut a keloid depends on several factors, including lesion size, shape, age, and location, but especially patient commitment to follow up and postsurgery care, said Dr. Baldwin.

She noted that larger keloids are no more difficult to remove than smaller ones, and patients tend to be more satisfied with the outcome with larger keloids. In terms of shape, pedunculated lesions are most amenable to surgery because of their small footprint. “Often the base does not contain keloidal tissue, and the patient gets the maximum benefit for the least risk,” she said. In addition, the residue from the removal of large keloids is often more acceptable.

Options for adjunctive therapy when excising keloids include corticosteroids, radiation, interferon, pressure dressings, dextran hydrogel scaffolding, and possibly botulinum toxin A, Dr. Baldwin said.

Adjunctive treatment alternatives

Intralesional corticosteroids can prevent the recurrence of keloids, and Dr. Baldwin recommends a 40 mg/cc injection into the base and walls of the excision site immediately postop, with repeat injections every 2 weeks for 2 months regardless of the patient’s clinical appearance. However, appearance determines the dose and concentration during 6 months of monthly follow-up, she said.

Radiation therapy, while not an effective monotherapy for keloids, can be used as an adjunct. A short radiation treatment plan may improve compliance, and no local malignancies linked to radiation therapy for keloids have been reported, she said. Dr. Baldwin also shared details of using an in-office superficial radiation therapy with the SRT-100 device, which she said has shown some ability to reduce recurrence of keloids.

Interferon, which can reduce production of collagen and increase collagenase can be used in an amount of 1.5 million units per linear cm around the base and walls of a keloid excision (maximum is 5 million units a day). Be aware that patients can develop flulike symptoms within a day or so, and warn patients to take it easy and monitor for symptoms, she said.

Studies of imiquimod for keloid recurrence have yielded mixed results, and a 2020 literature review concluded that it is not recommended as a treatment option for keloids, said Dr. Baldwin. Pressure dressings also have not shown effectiveness on existing lesions.

Botulinum toxin A has been studied as a way to prevent hypertrophic scars and keloids and potentially for preventing recurrence by injecting at the wound edges, she said. A meta-analysis showed that botulinum toxin was superior to corticosteroids for treating keloids, but “there were a lot of problems with the studies,” she said.

One other option for postexcision keloid treatment is dextran hydrogel scaffolding, which involves a triple-stranded collagen denatured by heat, with the addition of dextran to form a scaffold for fibroblasts, Dr. Baldwin said. This product, when injected prior to the final closure of surgical excision of keloids, may improve outcomes in certain areas, such as the earlobe, she said.

Dr. Baldwin concluded with comments about preventing other keloids from getting out of hand, which is extraordinarily challenging. However, treatment with dupilumab might provide an answer, although data are limited and more research is needed. She cited a case study of a male patient who had severe atopic dermatitis, with two keloids that improved after 7 months on dupilumab. The Th2 cytokines interleukin (IL)–4 and IL-13 have been implicated as key mediators in the pathogenesis of fibroproliferative disorders, which may respond to dupilumab, which targets Th2, she noted.

Dr. Baldwin had no relevant financial conflicts to disclose.

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