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Almost anyone in need of additional skin can benefit from tissue expansion - from infants to elderly men and women.

The procedure is used widely in breast reconstruction when there is not enough skin to accommodate a permanent implant to restore a woman’s natural appearance. It is also an option for repairing or replacing areas of the scalp, where hair growth makes it difficult to replace lost tissue with skin from other areas of the body. Tissue expansion generally produces excellent results when reconstructing some areas of the face and neck, the hands, arms, and legs. Expansion may be more difficult on the back, torso, or other areas where skin is thick. If the affected area is severely damaged or scarred, expansion is probably not an option, since healthy skin is the first requirement.

Until recently, surgeons were limited to skin flaps and skin grafts to reconstruct damaged tissue. Tissue expansion, however, provides an added technique with several advantages.

  • Expansion offers a near-perfect match of color, texture, and hair-bearing qualities
  • Skin remains connected to the donor area’s blood and nerve supply, there is a smaller risk that it will die
  • Skin doesn’t have to be removed from one area to another reducing the appearance of scars

Skin expansion requires an extended length of time to grow additional skin. Depending on the area to be reconstructed, tissue expansion can take as long as three to four months. During this time, the expander creates what can be an unsightly bulge - which is desirable in breast reconstruction, but can be quite noticeable for someone requiring repair of the scalp or other areas of the body. The procedure requires repeated visits to the surgeon for the injection of the salt water that inflates the balloon.

Your plastic surgeon will discuss all options with you regarding your procedure.