We have used tissue expanders to treat 10 patients with breast deformities, 2 the result of burns and 8 congenital in origin. The expanders are placed in the subglandular plane and expanded incrementally until the desired amount of growth is obtained. In patients with congenital deformities, the desired size of the reconstructed breast (implant size) is determined during the expansion phase. Reconstructions of the nipple-areola complex are done either at the time of the exchange or as separate procedures.
Patients with burn deformities present a variety of problems not seen with the congenital deformities. The expander is placed in the subglandular plane and filled to the desired volume. We have noted a marked permanent softening of the scar and grafts encasing the breast, which persists after the expander is removed and the breast reconstructed. The interval between expansion and definitive reconstruction is delayed for several months to allow scar softening to take place. If the parenchyma is not burned and pedicle tissue is not required, the expander can be deflated and the skin coverage observed to determine if it will remain soft. If it does, the expander can be removed and the breast reconstructed. In patients who require pedicle coverage in the reconstruction and who have unburned scar surrounding the breast, massive overexpansion is carried out. The pedicle skin is used to resurface the breast after removal of the appropriate areas of scar and skin grafts. In all burned patients, the inframammary fold must be reconstructed if the breast is to be protuberant. The nipple-areola complex also requires reconstruction.
To date there has been great acceptance by patients with both congenital and burn deformities; however, we believe that tissue expansion techniques offer possibilities that have not as yet been fully explored.
© Williams & Wilkins 1986. All Rights Reserved.