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Breast Reconstruction Primer: Tissue Expander+Implant

Plastic Surgery for Torrance & Los Angeles | South Bay Plastic Surgeons

Screen Shot 2014-05-27 at 7.55.57 PMAs you may know, the skilled surgeons at South Bay Plastic Surgeons in Torrance, perform a variety of breast reconstruction procedures. Over the next few months, we’ll describe each of the options available to our breast cancer reconstruction patients.

This article describes the most common breast reconstruction method: Tissue Expander+Implant. The tissue expander + implant option is a two-stage reconstructive procedure.

After mastectomy, a temporary, inflatable breast implant is inserted under the skin and chest muscle in the operating room. This inflatable implant is called a tissue expander because, over time, it expands the breast skin and muscle to allow an implant to be placed.

Screen Shot 2014-05-28 at 6.54.58 AMHow a Tissue Expander Works
Through a small valve in the tissue expander, your breast reconstruction surgeon injects a small amount of saline (saltwater) at regular intervals to gradually fill the expander. The goal is to expand the breast until it is slightly larger than the other breast, to allow for insertion of a breast implant. The expansion process can vary from several weeks to months, depending upon the final size desired. Most patients experience a sense of stretching the skin and pressure in the breast area, but not pain.

Timing The Insertion of the Tissue Expander
For most South Bay breast reconstruction patients whose reconstruction involves a tissue expander, the process the process typically starts at same time as mastectomy surgery, but it can be performed anytime after mastectomy as well. Our plastic surgeons will coordinate your tissue expander insertion with your oncologist; the need for radiation and/or chemotherapy may affect the scheduling of your tissue expander insertion.

The Final Step: Insertion of a Permanent Breast Implant
Once the skin in the breast area has been stretched adequately for the planned implant, a second surgical procedure will be scheduled. During this second surgery, the expander is removed and a permanent breast implant is placed. You can find many examples on our website and by visiting our office.

In July, we’ll describe the DIEP-Flap method of breast reconstruction. If you have questions about breast reconstruction options, speak with one of our plastic surgeons by calling us at (310) 784-0644 and scheduling your consultation.

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