Tissue expansion risks and safety information

Skin expansion can produce some remarkable results. As with any operation, though,  there are risks associated with surgery and specific complications associated with this procedure.

The most common concern is that the silicone expander used in the procedure will break or leak while it is in the body. While expanders are rigorously tested and placed with care, leaks do occur. If the expander should leak, the salt-water solution (also known as saline) used to fill the expander is harmlessly absorbed by your system and the expander is replaced in a relatively minor surgical procedure.

A small percentage of patients develop an infection around the expander. While this may occur at any time, it's most often seen within a few weeks after the expander is inserted. In some cases, the expander may need to be removed for several months until the infection clears. A new expander can then be inserted.

You may have concerns about the use of a silicone tissue expander in this procedure because of the Food & Drug Administration's (FDA) limitations on silicone breast implants. At this time, the FDA ruling does not affect tissue expanders because they are filled with salt water, not silicone gel, and are left in place for only six to ten weeks, not permanently. Be sure to ask your doctor if you want to know more about the FDA recommendations.