Tissue Expansion

Tissue expansion is a process designed to recruit additional skin when extra skin is needed for reconstructive surgery. A tissue expander is like a balloon that is placed under the skin and, over time, filled with saline (salt water) until enough skin is stretched. Tissue expansion is a process that may be used in the treatment of congenital conditions, cancer, trauma, and breast surgery.

How long will the procedure take?

The time required for placement of a tissue expander is variable depending on the location and the condition being treated. After the expander is placed under the skin, it is filled with some fluid to start the expansion process. Over time, more fluid is filled until the desired amount of skin is stretched. Once all of the fluid has been placed, the expander is removed and the stretched skin is used in reconstruction of the adjacent condition in which it is needed.

Where will the incisions be?

The incisions are placed near the area to be reconstructed.

What will recovery be like?

Depending on the location affected, recovery can typically take one to two weeks.

What else should I know about this procedure?

After the initial surgery, the ongoing process of tissue expansion can be done in the office under local anesthesia for adult patients. This typically takes about 20 minutes. Children may need to have expansion done in the operating room with anesthesia. Dr. Aboutanos can help answer any questions about this process.