RECREATE THE SHAPE OF YOUR BREASTS AFTER A MASTECTOMY IN ST. LOUIS
When it comes to breast reconstruction, what is a tissue expander at St. Louis’ West County Plastic Surgeons of Washington University?
When a mastectomy is required to treat breast cancer, the breast itself is removed, resulting in a deficit of breast and skin tissues. The missing breast tissue and skin can either be replaced with other tissues from the patient—using a flap operation—or sufficient skin can be stretched with a tissue expander and the volume replaced with a breast implant.
Want to learn more about what to expect from a breast reconstruction tissue expander? Contact St. Louis’ West County Plastic Surgery for more details. Call (314) 996-8800 or fill out a contact form to request a consultation.
HOW DOES THE TISSUE EXPANSION PROCESS WORK?
A tissue expander is a temporary breast implant-related device that is placed above the pectoral muscle of the chest and directly under the skin in a technique known as prepectoral reconstruction. This advanced technique for implant-based breast reconstruction has many advantages, including the fact that there is little to no muscle deformity or discomfort when the implant is placed directly beneath the skin. Prepectoral reconstruction is a simple, less invasive technique with a short operation time that leaves the muscle intact. It may provide a more comfortable and natural result compared to traditional under the muscle techniques.
A material known as an acellular dermal matrix or AlloDerm® is used to support and pad the bottom of the breast. This provides an extra layer of soft tissue coverage over the implant to prevent exposure. In suitable candidates, the device is later replaced with an implant. Alternatively, the patient’s own tissues can be used later as a flap to help build a new breast. This is particularly true if radiation therapy is a part of the cancer treatment plan.
Before-and-after photos of breast reconstructions with tissue expanders and implants: Click here
WHAT IS THE TIMELINE FOR BREAST RECONSTRUCTION WITH TISSUE EXPANSION?
- First operation: Mastectomy + Tissue expander/AlloDerm® breast reconstruction(s)
- Office visits: Drain removal and wound checks, fill tissue expander(s)
- 4 months*: Exchange tissue expander with permanent implants; possible balancing procedure on other side. Possible fat grafts to optimize breast contours.
- 7 months: Nipple reconstruction. Possible fat grafts to optimize breast contours.
- 9 months: Areola reconstruction with tattoo
- 12 -24 months: Laser or IPL scar therapy .
* If chemotherapy is required, tissue expanders are usually exchanged 8 months later. If radiation therapy is also required, tissue expanders are replaced with implants or the patient’s own tissues (flap) at least 12 months later. The remaining procedures follow in sequence thereafter.
A tissue expander is a temporary breast implant device that is placed under the pectoral muscle of the chest and inflated over time to stretch out remaining muscle and skin. A material known as an acellular dermal matrix or AlloDerm® is placed to support and pad the bottom of the breast. In suitable candidates, the tissue expander is later replaced with an implant. Alternatively, the patient’s own tissues can be used later as a flap to help build a new breast. This is particularly true if radiation therapy is a part of the cancer treatment plan.
Anesthesia: Tissue expansion breast reconstruction is performed with the patient under general anesthesia.
Length of procedure: 60 minutes for one breast, 90 minutes for both breasts.
Estimated recovery time: Estimated recovery time: Hospitalization is usually 1 to 2 days. You can return to work after 2 to 4 weeks and should avoid vigorous activities for 6 weeks. Visible bruising and swelling should begin to improve within 3 weeks. To learn how to prepare for breast reconstruction and what to expect afterwards, click here to download our patient instructions.
Side effects: Common side effects include bruising and swelling. The breast may appear deflated, misshapen, and irregular right after surgery. This should improve as the tissue expander is progressively inflated. The tissue expander is less soft than the permanent implant that eventually replaces it. Delayed wound healing and infections may occur. Click here to download a detailed consent form from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons that lists the risks and benefits of a tissue expander breast reconstruction.
If you have questions or would like to book a consultation with one of the surgeons at West County Plastic Surgery, to find out more about breast reconstruction tissue expanders in St. Louis, please call (314) 996-8800.