We retrospectively reviewed 105 consecutive children in whom 191 tissue expanders were placed by the Plastic Surgical Service at The Children's Hospital from 1987 to 1995. The age range was 1 month to 28 years. The series included 68 females and 37 males. The indications for tissue expansion were congenital pigmented nevus (N=55), craniofacial anomaly (N=13), aplasia cutis congenita (N=7), meningomyelocele (N=7), posttumor resection (N=5), unstable scar (N=4), burn scar (N=3), and miscellaneous disorders. The expanders were located in the scalp (N=59), cervicofacial area (N=23), back (N=18), chest (N=6), and extremities (N=6). A single expander was used in 47 patients and the mean number of expanders per patient was 1.8. All patients were given preoperative intravenous antibiotics. There were 25 complications in 20 patients (19%), which comprised 13% of all expanders. The most common complications were infection (6%, N=11), deflation (3%, N=6), and exposure (2%, N=5). These complication rates were not related to either the gender, site of implantation, number of expanders, use of closed suction drains, or the indication for expansion. The complications were related to age, being higher in children (age 1-12 years) compared with infants and adolescents. Tissue expanders can be successfully used in children to construct and reconstruct a variety of cutaneous defects, but there is an irreducible minimum for the three major complications.