Tissue Expansion is a procedure performed to promote the growth of healthy supplementary skin used for the replacement of damaged skin. This reconstructive procedure is an option for almost any area of the body, allowing plastic surgeons to repair skin damaged by both congenital and acquired defects. Excellent results are commonly attained when performing tissue expansion to regions of the face, neck, arms, hands, and legs. Sections where the skin thickness is greater, such as the back and torso, prove to be more difficult to expand. In areas where the skin is severely damaged or scarred expansion is usually not an option since healthy skin is the primary requirement.
HOW IS THE PROCEDURE PERFORMED?
Tissue expansion is accomplished by placing a balloon like expander beneath the skin, adjacent to the damaged region. Over a period of time, the expander is filled with a saline solution causing the skin around it to grow and stretch. Once the new skin has reached its ideal size, the tissue expander is removed, and the new skin is redistributed, replacing the damaged area of skin.
The primary advantages in using this reconstructive method as opposed to skin flaps or skin grafts is the near-perfect match of color, texture and hair bearing qualities attained. There is also a smaller risk that the skin will die, because the skin remains connected to the donor area’s blood and nerve supply. Furthermore, scars are often less apparent due to the fact that skin doesn’t have to be moved from one area to another.