Tissue Expander Implant Reconstruction
This procedure can be done in one stage (direct to implant reconstruction) or in two stages (tissue expander first followed by implant). In general, reconstruction with implants following either route has the fewest scars, and is the least invasive of all the breast reconstruction surgery options.
A tissue expander is a balloon placed at the time of the mastectomy and adds about 1 hour of extra surgery time. 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.
When chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy (if necessary) are completed, the expander is removed and the permanent implant placed. This takes about one hour and is done on an outpatient basis. After healing from the second surgery, a nipple can be created with skin taken locally from the reconstructed breast. A tattoo is added later in the office for the areola color.
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.