The tissue expander is a process for the post mastectomy reconstruction. It is a staged approach and requires subsequent visits until the desired size is accomplished. A tissue expander is a provisional device utilized to create a soft pocket in the chest wall to hold a permanent implant. Tissue expanders come in an assortment of sizes and shapes to be used for an appropriate fitting to your body.
What You Can Expect
Breast reconstruction is a multi-step process to restructure the symmetry of the breasts that was affected in the mastectomy. Some women may opt for a delayed breast reconstruction with implants or can choose for immediate reconstruction. This will depend on your treatment options.
Regardless if you choose a delayed or immediate breast reconstruction with an implant, the first step is getting a tissue expander. At the beginning of the post mastectomy reconstruction process, the tissue expander will be partly filled with saline. The expansion process will begin within a few weeks after surgery, upon your recovery.
After the mastectomy procedure, the tissue expander will be inserted underneath the muscles of the chest wall and will be positioned in the pocket of the tissue. At your request, your surgeon can place a larger volume of saline during the initial reconstructive surgery, this can minimize the amount of subsequent visits but it is important to administer a safe amount to alleviate any added discomfort that is commonly associated with the procedure. This is something that will be discussed prior to the procedure.
The succeeding appointments are generally outpatient procedures that include replacing the expander with an implant which will aide in creating a more distinct and refined shape of the breasts.
Once the tissue expanders have been input, you will need to wait either until chemotherapy and/or radiation is completed or a few months for healing and recovery, prior to the second stage of your reconstruction which involves removing the expander and inserting a permanent breast prosthesis. The discomfort from the tissue expansion is easily counteracted by Tylenol, and the tightness should diminish within the first day after the addition of fluid.
Tissue expanders are temporary and slight discomfort may occur. If you have any pain that persists, contact Dr. Gartside for further assistance by calling (888) 730-4113.
For more information about tissue expanders and breast reconstruction surgery after cancer, please contact New Image Plastic Surgery Associates online to arrange a consultation at our office in Reston or McLean. Dr. Gartside also serves patients from Fairfax, Virginia, and throughout the Washington, DC metro area.