How Does Tissue Expansion Work?

Tissue expansion is a procedure that enables the body to create extra skin to be used in a variety of reconstructive surgical procedures. It can take the place of skin grafts or flaps in the case of breast reconstruction following a mastectomy or after an accident or for cosmetic reasons. The procedure requires an incision to be made close to the part of the body that requires reconstructive surgery—for example, in the affected area of the chest in the case of breast reconstruction. A balloon-like device made of silicone is inserted under the skin and filled with saline solution in slow stages. This causes the balloon to expand and stretch the skin. Once there is enough new skin, it is placed over the area that requires repair and sutured to remain place.

Tissue expansion experiments were attempted in the early 20th century, but the first clinical use occurred in 1957. However, it took a couple more decades for the procedure to gain the widespread acceptance. The new skin has the same look and feel as the surrounding skin, and the procedure can be done on patients irrespective of age or skin type and works best where the skin is thin, such as the arms, legs, hands, neck, face and scalp.

Toronto Tissue Expansion

Tissue expansion in Toronto is normally an outpatient procedure and generally done under local anesthesia. The surgery begins with a small incision made as close as possible to the damaged skin, into which is inserted a balloon expander with a self-sealing valve. The incision is closed with stitches and covered with a bandage. Patients need to return to the doctor’s office periodically so the expander can be filled with additional saline. When there is enough new skin, which can take up to three to four months to achieve, the expander is removed and the additional skin is positioned over the damaged area. Dr. Colin Hong, a plastic surgeon in Toronto, performs this surgical procedure on patients of all ages and with different needs.

Patients can, in most cases, return home within a few hours of the initial surgery and can resume normal activities in two to four days. A small amount of discomfort may be felt after each expansion session, but will fade away in a couple of hours. After the second surgery to remove the balloon and reposition the new skin, patients need to rest for a few days up to a week before resuming regular activity levels.

If tissue expansion is required after a traumatic injury or major surgery, the Toronto surgeon may decide to wait for the wound to fully heal before beginning tissue expansion. However, in some cases such as breast reconstruction, the expansion procedure may begin immediately after the breast removal. Additionally, tissue expansion can be used for cosmetic reasons, such as to treat balding. The “new” skin contains the same hair follicles and makes for a more natural choice over other methods.

Dr. Hong is a successful body shaping specialist who is admired as a pioneering Toronto liposuction, buttock lift and buttock augmentation authority. He has a long-standing reputation for helping patients seeking arm lift, thigh lift and tummy tuck in Toronto achieve their desires for an improved self-image.

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