Tissue Expander Procedure
Breast reconstruction with tissue expanders is a multi-stage procedure that gradually expands the remaining natural breast tissue to create a pocket for the implant, eliminating the need for a flap or skin graft to cover the implant. During the first procedure, the tissue expander is placed on the chest wall and filled partially with saline. After an initial healing period, the expansion process begins by inserting more and more fluid into the device at regular intervals, often weekly.
For many patients, these appointments are coordinated with chemotherapy treatments, and take less than a minute to complete. The expanders each have a port in the front that can be easily accessed with a needle to inject the precise amount of fluid for each scheduled expansion. After expansion, patients may experience discomfort for up to 24 hours, which can be managed with Tylenol or other over-the-counter medications.
Once the expansion process is complete and a sufficient pocket has been created, the implant is placed during a second procedure. During this outpatient procedure, the tissue expander is removed and replaced with a breast implant. Patients can choose between several different implant types to pick the one that best fits their body and goals for surgery. This procedure takes about an hour to perform and usually takes place approximately a month after chemotherapy is completed.
The entire process usually takes four to six months to complete, after which patients can experience the benefits of reconstructed, natural-looking breasts with little to no reminders of cancer.