Tissue expansion is a surgical technique that serves as an important component to reconstruction efforts like breast reconstruction, cleft lips, burns, and hair replacement surgery. When there is a shortage of tissue to complete a reconstructive procedure, tissue expansion is used to assist the body in producing new soft tissue.
During the procedure, a deflated balloon-like device is inserted under the skin. Over the next days to weeks, the balloon fills with saline, an action that slowly stretches the skin, causing it to grow. When the skin has grown sufficiently, the balloon device is removed, and the skin is used to complete the reconstructive procedure.
When Is Tissue Expansion Used?
As noted, tissue expansion is used when there is an inadequacy of soft tissue required to complete a reconstructive procedure. Some of the advantages of using tissue expansion in surgical reconstruction are that it:
- Produces tissue with near-perfect match in color and texture
- Results in minimal donor site morbidity and scarring
- May be used on various body parts
- Can provide tissue with sensory function or appendage attributes
- Considered superior to other methods used to reconstruct or repair damaged skin
How Is Tissue Expansion Done?
Your tissue expansion procedure will take place in an outpatient surgical facility and will last between 1-2 hours. Either local or general anesthesia may be used, depending on the extent of the procedure.
The plastic surgeon will first make a small incision near the area being treated, then insert the silicone balloon expander just beneath the skin. The expander comprises a tiny tube and self-sealing valve that allows the surgeon to gradually fill the expander with saline solution; the valve is usually left just beneath the skin surface.
Follow-up visits will be scheduled so that, once the incision heals, your surgeon can inject the expander with additional saline. During this process, the skin over the expander stretches as the expander enlarges. Once the skin has stretched enough to complete the reconstruction procedure, your surgeon will remove the expander in a second operation, then resume reconstruction surgery using the new tissue.
What Can Be Expected After Surgery?
Recovery from tissue expansion procedure varies drastically depending on an array of factors such as the extent of the symptoms precipitating reconstructive surgery, and your general health. Most patients continue their normal routines while the expander is in place, and can resume these activities within a week following surgery.
To learn more about the benefits, costs or possible side effects of tissue expansion surgery in the San Gabriel Valley, contact Dr. Sattler for a personal complimentary consultation. He is conveniently located in Glendora in LA County to serve residents throughout Southern California.