Traumatic injury often leaves scars and deformities that are often extremely embarrassing for those who suffer from them. Confidence and self-esteem can take a hit when victims of trauma experience different treatment because of the way they look. Fortunately, reconstructive surgery has been a practice used since ancient times to improve the aesthetics of the face after trauma. While it is not possible to return the face to exactly the way it looked before the trauma, amazing improvement can be made using a variety of techniques. One of these revolutionary methods for reconstructive surgery is known as tissue expansion. What is tissue expansion, and what can it be used for?
How It Works
The skin is a very elastic and adaptable organ, able to expand and retract as needed, according to growth, weight gain, and weight loss. Using this to their advantage, plastic surgeons can perform tissue expansion to help “grow” extra skin for use in reconstructive procedures. A silicone balloon is placed under the skin, and is gradually filled with a saline solution. Over time, the skin stretches and can eventually be used on other areas of the body. This is often utilized on the scalp area, as this skin is excellent for use in grafts, and the bulge from the balloon can often be minimized by the hair.
What It Is Used For
Skin Cancer Reconstruction
MOHS surgery, a highly effective method for skin cancer treatment, is often performed with immediate facial reconstruction for repairing the damage caused by the surgery. Though MOHS is minimally traumatic to the area surrounding the tumor or irregularities to be removed, some skin grafting is still necessary, and tissue expansion is ideal for this purpose. Several months before cancer treatment, the tissue expansion balloon is placed so that the grafting material will be ready at the time of surgery for the subsequent reconstruction.
General Skin Grafts
Naturally, the skin “grown” through tissue expansion can be used for any number of grafting purposes. These grafts can be used on many areas of the body to repair tissue, hide scarring, and greatly improve aesthetics for the patient.
One of the biggest advantages of tissue expansion for the scalp is that the skin can retain normal hair growth, which allows the tissue to be integrated seamlessly with the rest of the skin on the scalp. Furthermore, it is easy for the surgeon to match and move this skin when used for scalp reconstruction.
Benefits of Tissue Expansion
Prior to the availability of tissue expansion, skin grafts were less optimized for facial procedures as they could not be taken from a similar source. Additionally, with tissue expansion, the blood supply is more likely to be of good quality, increasing the chances that the grafted skin will not die.
A Lengthy Process
Have you ever struggled with stretch marks? These unsightly lines are the result of skin stretching too quickly, because of rapid change and growth. In order to avoid the skin stretching too fast, tissue expansion is a lengthy process. Following the initial visit to place the balloon, the process typically takes three to four months. During this time, weekly visits for injections are scheduled and are crucial to a successful tissue expansion endeavor.
Recovery from the initial placement usually takes about 7-10 days. The injection visits do not involve additional downtime, but the procedure the extra skin will be used for will likely require quite a bit of recovery.
Finding a Surgeon
Reconstructive surgery is extremely difficult and complex, as no two deformities are alike, and often the surgeon must build facial structures and deal with scar tissue. It is extremely important to seek help from a seasoned facial plastic surgeon with an excellent track record. You should only speak with board certified surgeons with years of experience. Do not forget to take a look at prospective candidates’ before and after photos to see if you like previous results the surgeon has produced.
If you would like to speak with an expert about reconstructive surgery, come to Bentkover Facial Plastic Surgery & Laser Center in Worcester(508-363-6500) or Stoneham(617-247-0033), MA, to speak with renowned facial plastic surgeon Dr. Stuart Bentkover. Dr. Bentkover has over 25 years of experience in plastic surgery, and has helped many skin cancer and trauma patients improve their appearance and self-esteem through reconstructive surgery. Call today to schedule your consultation at either location.