What Is a Tissue Expander and How Is It Used?

Tissue expansion is a simple procedure used when you want the body to grow more bone, more skin, and more tissues. It is used when you need to increase the size of somebody’s organs, such as your cheekbones, your breasts, or your derrieres, or when you need reconstruction after an injury. Read on to learn about this procedure.

What is a Tissue Expander?

Tissue expanders are empty implants placed on the part of your body temporarily to stimulate the growth of tissues in which they are implanted. After placing the implant, the surgeon will fill it gradually with carbon dioxide and saline. It is not possible to fill this implant all at once because the implant self-seals after a short period of filling.

After every one or two weeks, the surgeon will examine the implant and fill it up. The duration of treatment will depend on the kind of reconstruction needed and what part of the body the implant is placed in. The implant can be textured or smooth, with the smooth implant being preferable as it does not increase the risk of developing a rare form of cancer.

Why Do You Need Tissue Expanders?

Although some people seek tissue expansion for cosmetic purposes, the procedure is necessary for breast reconstruction after mastectomy. They help grow extra skin and extra tissue for the full recovery of the breast. It is also necessary for the repair of the skin after an injury. Accidents, surgery, and congenital anomalies necessitate tissue expansion.

Largely, people have tissue expansion for cosmetic purposes, such as a vertical facelift. The nature of the injury or the body part that needs a cosmetic procedure will determine where the surgeon places the implant. For instance, one may need a tissue expander to stretch the skin that grows hair after cancer leaves someone with a bald patch. It may also be used to repair a wound or an anomaly on your limbs or torso, or any other part of the body.

How is the Procedure Carried Out?

This is a simple procedure that can be carried out in an outpatient facility. Before the day of the procedure, the surgeon will advise you on what to eat and drink and what to avoid. If you smoke, you may have to quit for about two weeks before and after the procedure so as not to interfere with wound healing. The preparations for the procedure will depend on whether you have other procedures, such as mastectomy, what part of the body needs the procedure, and the type of anesthesia needed.

The process of placing a tissue expander will be chosen based on the purpose of tissue expansion, the position to be expanded, and any other procedures to be carried out. For instance, if you are to have a mastectomy, the surgeon can place the expander on the day of the mastectomy.

The procedure takes one or two hours. A surgeon makes an incision on the skin and creates a pocket to hold the silicone balloon expander. You will need to make a follow-up visit for the surgeon to remove the bandages and observe the incision. In some cases, you may need a drain, which the surgeon will explain how to care for on the day of the surgery.

Recovery and Refilling

The surgeon will start filling the implant after the incision heals. They will add carbon dioxide or saline to stretch the skin. As the skin stretches, new tissues grow, and the surgeon fills the implant again until the results are satisfying. During this time, you will feel pain and discomfort. You can lessen the pain and discomfort by use of a warm shower, using pain medications, performing any exercises recommended by the surgeon, and applying moisturizer on the skin.

In most cases, you will be able to resume your everyday life after a few weeks. However, you may have to wait for up to six weeks before performing any strenuous activities. You will need a second procedure to remove the implant.

The main advantage of this procedure is that it offers a perfect color match, the scars are less apparent, and the chances of the tissue dying are negligible.

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