Breast Reconstruction Expanders

By Ravi Tandon, M.D. on July 04, 2019

Before and after breast reconstructionBreast reconstruction offers women the opportunity to restore the shape and volume of the breasts after mastectomy. There are several different breast reconstruction techniques available to patients. Plastic surgeon Ravi Tandon works alongside our patients’ oncologists to create a treatment plan that is most appropriate.

In many cases, breast reconstruction is performed with the assistance of tissue expanders. Breast reconstruction expanders slowly stretch chest muscles and the skin to make room for a breast implant. Here, our New Orleans, LA patients can learn more about what to expect from breast reconstruction treatment involving tissue expanders.

What Are Tissue Expanders?

Tissue expanders are essentially inflatable breast implants that have a tiny valve mechanism on the inside. These small implants are inserted empty and are then gradually filled over time. As the tissue expanders are filled, they help to stretch chest muscles and the skin to create a pocket of space that can eventually support the placement of a permanent breast implant.

When Are Expanders Placed?

Breast reconstruction expanders are nearly always placed at the time of the patient’s mastectomy. This allows Dr. Tandon to start the reconstruction process for our New Orleans patients without them requiring a second surgery for expander placement. When the expanders are first placed, they will be injected with a small amount of saline solution.

How Do Expanders Work?

After the tissue expanders are placed, patients are given several weeks to recover from their mastectomy and the placement of the tissue expanders. During this time, the expanders simply sit in place. Once surgical drains have been removed and incisions have healed, we will start the process of filling the tissue expanders. The exact timeframe may vary for each patient, but we typically start the process around three or four weeks after the expanders have been placed.

Using the valve that sits within the expander, we will insert a small amount of saline solution. Over the next several weeks or months, the amount of saline solution in the expanders will gradually be increased. If a patient has undergone a single mastectomy, the tissue expander will be filled until it is slightly larger than the other breast. In the case of a double mastectomy, the expanders will be filled until they can accommodate the selected breast implant.

Is the Process Painful?

Compared to many of the other procedures used in the treatment of breast cancer, tissue expanders may not seem like much to complain about. However, they do cause some discomfort, and our New Orleans patients should not be afraid to speak up if they experience some pain. As the skin and muscles stretch, it can feel uncomfortable, especially immediately following a saline fill.

The following tips may prove helpful in minimizing expander discomfort:

  • Apply cold compresses or ice packs for 20 minutes at a time
  • Take over-the-counter pain medication
  • Try meditation or other relaxation techniques to distract the mind
  • Ask Dr. Tandon about gentle stretches and exercises that may help
  • If necessary, ask for smaller saline injections

Contact Us

If you are considering breast reconstruction, Dr. Ravi Tandon would be happy to answer any questions you may have. To learn more about the reconstruction process, contact us at your earliest convenience or call (504) 455-1000 to schedule a personal consultation.

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