What is a tissue expander?

Intro to series, Breast reconstruction surgery has several different approaches.  Due to this and the complexities of the surgery patients typically have lots of questions and may feel overwhelmed.  Dr. Elswick would like to offer a blog series on answering several of these questions to help patients increase their knowledge and make informed decisions.  She is passionate about breast reconstruction surgery and works one on one with her patients to ensure every question is thoroughly answered before moving forward.  

 

We have several questions already in mind to answer but welcome additional ones from you. Our first question is: 

 

What is a tissue expander?

 

A tissue expander is one of the more commonly used devices in breast reconstruction.  A tissue expander is a temporary “spacer”, similar to a balloon, which allows the plastic surgeon to preserve the volume and shape of the breast.  It is shaped like a breast and has a “tear drop” appearance when viewed from the side. The outer shell of the tissue expander is made of silicone.  

 

There are different sizes of tissue expanders, so it can be individualized to fit your body and reconstructive goals.  Unlike a breast implant, a tissue expander has a port that is connected to the inside cavity. The port is identified with a magnet and accessed through your skin so the expander can be filled post-operatively with either air or fluid.  A tissue expander is used as a temporary device to help create a nice pocket to hold the final implant while also expanding or stretching the breast skin to create the desired post-operative size and shape. When the tissue expander fills are complete and the skin and incisions have healed, the tissue expander is removed and replaced with a permanent implant (three to six months after your expander surgery or radiation).

 

Attached is a photo of a tissue expander. During your consultation, I will have one available for you to physically see and touch to help you better understand the device.  Please call my office located in Troy, Michigan to set up your consultation. 248-524-0620. Together we can restore your body and confidence. 

 

Sarah M. Elswick, MD 

Reconstructive, Plastic and Aesthetic Surgery 

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