Tissue expansion is a relatively straightforward procedure that enables the body to “grow” extra skin for use in reconstructing almost any part of the body. The tissue expansion technique is offered here in Guilford, among many other procedures in reconstructive plastic surgery.
Who Should Get Tissue Expansion?
The procedure is used widely in breast reconstruction when there is not enough skin to accommodate a permanent implant to restore a woman’s natural appearance. It is also an option for repairing or replacing areas of the scalp, where hair growth makes it difficult to replace lost tissue with skin from other areas of the body. Tissue expansion generally produces excellent results when reconstructing some areas of the face and neck, the hands, arms, and legs.
What Does Tissue Expansion Do?
In most cases, the initial operation will take one to two hours, depending on the size and area of skin to be expanded. Your plastic surgeon will begin by making a small incision next to the area of skin to be repaired, and will do everything possible to make the incision as inconspicuous as possible.
Dr. Collins will then insert the silicone balloon expander in a pocket created beneath the skin. The expander includes a tiny tube and a self-sealing valve that allows the surgeon to gradually fill the expander with saline solution. The valve is usually left just beneath the surface of the skin.
Once the incision has healed, you’ll be asked to return to your surgeon’s office periodically so that the expander can be injected with additional saline. As the expander enlarges, your skin will stretch. In some people, this procedure causes some minor discomfort.
When the skin has stretched enough to cover the affected area, you’ll have a second operation to remove the expander and reposition the new tissue. In breast reconstruction, the surgery required to remove the expander and insert the permanent implant is relatively brief. More complex surgery to repair skin on the face or scalp will take longer, and may require more than one expansion sequence to complete.
After Tissue Expansion: What Should I Expect?
How you feel after surgery depends on the extent and complexity of the procedure. The initial surgery to insert the expander and follow-ups cause most patients only temporary discomfort which can be controlled with medication prescribed by your physician.
Most tissue expansion patients find they can keep up with their normal routine while the expander is in place. Following the second surgery, most patients are up and about within a week.
Generally, the results of tissue expansion are superior to other methods used to reconstruct or repair damaged skin. But keep in mind, the goal is improvement, not perfection. For most tissue expansion patients, the procedure dramatically improves their appearance and quality of life following surgery.
If you are considering reconstructive surgery, we encourage you to contact the Guilford, Connecticut office of plastic surgeon Beth Collins MD to find out about your tissue expansion options.