American Society of Plastic Surgeons
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Tissue Expansion

Growing Extra Skin for Reconstruction

Tissue expansion enables the body to "grow" extra skin for use in reconstructing almost any part of the body.

Tissue expansion advantages & disadvantages

Tissue expansion advantages

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
  • Because the skin remains connected to the donor area's blood and nerve supply, there is a smaller risk that it will die
  • Because the skin doesn't have to be moved from one area to another, scars are often less apparent

Tissue expansion disadvantages

On the other hand, skin expansion has one significant drawback - the length of time required 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. Furthermore, the procedure requires repeated visits to the surgeon for injection of the salt water that inflates the balloon. For some people, the inconvenience and obvious appearance of an expander are enough for them to consider other options.



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