Breast enlargement with tissue expander
Tissue expander breast implants are similar to normal breast implants however they usually have a thin layer of silicone gel surrounding an empty space in the centre, where further silicone gel would sit in a regular implant. This space is filled with saline (salt water) in a tissue expander.
The amount of saline put into the expander cavity can be varied and it can be gradually inflated over time so that the skin and soft tissues can be slowly stretched. When completely inflated an expander looks almost identical to a normal breast implant (though it does feel a little different).
Frequently asked questions
How does using a tissue expander differ?
Tissue expanders are placed in the breast in the same way a regular implant is, though an extra pocket is made on the side of the chest so that a little injection port can be placed under the skin. The port location normally sits under the bra strap, and gradual inflation of the expander is commenced once it has been put in place. This allows the tissues of the breast to be gently stretched over a period of months until the desired size is reached.
Tissue expanders are usually used as a means of breast augmentation in cases of breast asymmetry when one breast is significantly smaller than the other. The smaller breast is gradually increased in size over the course of a year and then the expander is removed and a standard breast implant is inserted.
The reason for exchanging the tissue expander implant for a normal silicone implant is that the standard implant feels more natural and there is a very small risk of implant deflation (leakage of saline from the valve that allows the salt water to be injected). Although this does not pose any risk from a health point of view it would result in the breast becoming smaller again. If you decide that you are happy with the expander and would like to keep it, then a small operation under local anaesthetic is needed to remove the injection port site.
How long does it take?
The operation usually takes between 60 to 90 minutes.
A general anaesthetic is required for the procedure and this can be done either as a day case or you can stay in overnight. After you have been discharged from hospital you will need to take some pain relief but you should not be too uncomfortable. You will be provided with all the analgesia you should need before you go home.
What happens after the operation?
You can start wearing a sports bra as soon as you feel comfortable, but it is essential not to wear underwired bras for the first 6 weeks as they can cause problems with wound healing.
After tissue expander breast augmentation surgery you can undertake light activities (including light aerobic exercise) once you feel comfortable, and after the first 2 weeks you can start to lift everyday objects. It is important not to do upper body weights or rigorous exercise until 6 weeks following the surgery. Your body will be a good guide as to what you can and can’t manage!