Tissue Expanders for Breast Reconstruction

Every year approximately 15,000 women in Australia are diagnosed with breast cancer according to the Breast Cancer Network Australia. Many of them are likely to undergo a mastectomy or breast removal surgery. Often only one breast is removed. As is common with most other nations, a large number of women undergoing single or double mastectomy do not have breast reconstruction.

A few women opt to have immediate breast reconstructive surgery, which combines the breast removal and reconstruction into a single procedure. The rest—a majority of reconstructive patients—opt for a delayed breast reconstruction procedure, which essentially involves two operations. If a woman wants to preserve the skin of her removed breast (or breasts) intact, for a later, more natural looking breast reconstruction this is where tissue expanders come in useful.

Tissue expansion is a technique used by plastic and restorative surgeons to help the body grow additional, skin, bone and other tissues. Tissue expansion is achieved by implanting a tissue expander under the healthy skin, which is inflated gradually over time with saline injections to achieve the desired enhanced volume. Tissue expansion works by taking advantage of the natural elasticity of the skin. This technique is useful in breast reconstruction as well as in reconstructive procedures on the lips and the eyelids. Tissue expanders can also be used in other situations, such as repairing damaged skin caused by birth defects, accidents or previous surgery.

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