Tissue Expansion

Growing Extra Skin for Reconstruction

Tissue expansion enables the body to “grow” extra skin for use in reconstructing almost any part of the body.

 

What is tissue expansion?

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.

A silicone balloon expander is inserted under the skin near the area to be repaired and then gradually filled with salt water over time, causing the skin to stretch and grow. It is most commonly used for breast reconstruction following breast removal, but it’s also used to repair skin damaged by birth defects, accidents or surgery, and in certain cosmetic procedures.

If your doctor is recommending tissue expansion, this will give you a basic understanding of the procedure — when it can help, how it’s performed, and what results you can expect. It can’t answer all of your questions, however, since much depends on your individual circumstances. Please be sure to ask your surgeon if there is anything you don’t understand about the procedure.

 

Candidates for tissue expansion:

Almost anyone in need of additional skin can benefit from tissue expansion — from infants to elderly men and women.

  • 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.
  • Expansion may be more difficult on the back, torso, or other areas where skin is thick. If the affected area is severely damaged or scarred, expansion is probably not an option since healthy skin is the first requirement.