Following mastectomy, one of the techniques performed to reconstruct a breast is called Tissue Expander Implant Reconstruction. A tissue expander is a balloon that is surgically placed after the mastectomy or placed later in time.
This procedure can be done in one stage (direct to implant reconstruction or placing the implant during the same mastectomy surgery) or in two stages (tissue expander is placed first, followed by implant placement at a later time). In general, reconstruction with implants following either route has the fewest scars, and is the least invasive of all the breast reconstruction surgery options.
This procedure usually entails one day in the hospital. During follow up office appointments, the expander is gradually filled with salt water until you have reached your desired size. If chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy is necessary, once these therapies are completed, the expander is removed and the permanent implant placed. This takes about one hour and is done on an outpatient basis, meaning, you can go home right after the procedure. After healing from the second surgery, a nipple can be created with skin taken locally from the reconstructed breast. A tattoo is added in office to recreate the areola, done by our professional tattoo artist who specializes in creating areolas. Reconstruction with implants can also be accomplished in a single stage. This reduces the number of surgeries needed to complete the reconstruction, but offers less flexibility with size, and entails slightly more risk. Watch the video for additional information about breast reconstruction with tissue expanders.