One of the most common breast reconstruction procedures is called tissue expansion. It makes use of provisional tissue expanders for expanding the breast muscle and skin.
The tissue expander technique of breast reconstruction is perfect for women who lack sufficient natural breast tissue for the reconstruction surgery or for those who wish to have an implant-based breast reconstruction.

After a couple of months, the surgeon will remove the expander and you’ll get permanent breast implants or a micro-vascular flap reconstruction. This kind of breast reconstruction surgery involves two distinct operations.

Never heard of a tissue expander? Well, it is nothing but a breast implant which can be inflated.

The Procedure

Breast reconstruction using tissue expanders with breast implants typically involves three stages.

Stage 1

In the first stage, your plastic surgeon will place the tissue expander in a flap created on your chest wall. This artificially created pocket is quite deep and touches the pectoralis muscle. It is possible to do this immediately post-mastectomy or sometime later. It is designed for stretching the muscle and skin and makes space for a future permanent implant.

At the time of initial placement, the surgeon will partially fill the expander with saline, providing instant breast contours. It is possible to add more saline to the tissue expander through the port at its front.

Stage 2

The second stage of treatment involves an outpatient surgery which lasts for about one to two hours. It focuses on the removal of the expanders from the temporary pocket which is created in the first stage. The surgeon normally removes the scar tissue from this pocket, as it helps in softening the overall feel and look of the patient’s new breast. This is followed by the placement of the new implants.

Stage 3

The final stage of this breast enhancement surgery involves nipple reconstruction. It is possible to reconstruct the nipple in isolation or in conjunction with the other contouring processes like scar revision or fat grafting. The surgeon may perform the nipple reconstruction under local anesthesia, which means that the patient experiences almost zero discomfort.

So how many expansions of the prosthetics are needed for this type of breast reconstruction? This usually depends on the amount of fluid filled in when the expander is first placed on the chest wall. It also depends on the soft-tissue quality in the area.

Surgeons may use AlloDerm® for this type of breast reconstruction. This allows them to place a greater quantity of saline at the time of the expander placement and could have an impact on the total time of the treatment.

Am I a Candidate for This Surgery?

The majority of the women who are planning to undergo a mastectomy can be good candidates for the tissue expanders with the breast implant technique of breast reconstruction. If you do not wish to get a flap procedure, then this may be the ideal breast enhancement solution for you.

Find Out More About Breast Reconstruction

Dr. Elias Gikas is a board-certified plastic surgeon with a high degree of skill and experience. Contact our office today and make your appointment for a consultation.