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Breast Surgery

Breast Enlargement with Tissue Expander

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.

Breast Enlargement

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).

Personalised care at a hospital close to you with a comprehensive five-year structured follow-up programme and fully BAAPS and BAPRAS accredited surgeon.


1.5 hours


Local or general

Hospital Stay

Day case or 1 night

Full Recovery

3 weeks

Final Results

The expander will be filled with saline over a period of up to 6 months until you achieve a breast size you are happy with.

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 two, weeks you can start to lift everyday objects. It is important not to do upper body weights or rigorous exercise until six weeks following the surgery. Your body will be a good guide as to what you can and can’t manage

Have a question?

If you’ve decided to have cosmetic surgery, you now need to choose a surgeon with the appropriate training, skills and experience to carry out your procedure.

It’s important to talk to your surgeon about what you want to change and why.

Anthony specialises in aesthetic surgery; he is registered with BAAPS, a specialist register of Plastic Surgeons maintained by the General Medical Council.

He is nationally acknowledged for providing outstanding medical care and achieving results which meet or exceed patients’ hopes and expectations.

Before & Afters

Before & After

Patient Story

See how a breast treatment changed Christine’s life


Discover more about tissue expander treatments in the articles below…

breast asymmetry consultation

Breast asymmetry FAQs

Breast asymmetry is a very common condition. The majority of women have some degree of asymmetry in their breasts though, for some, the difference in shape and size can be quite extreme and this can lead to issues with self-confidence and can also cause problems within intimate relationships.

What are the options for correcting breast asymmetry?

The good news is, there are many options to correct breast asymmetry available to patients. Here, we’ll look at the most common and effective breast asymmetry correction techniques.

Breast augmentation

If the asymmetry between breasts is significant, breast augmentation is often recommended. An implant can be inserted into the smaller breast in order to increase its size. However, work will likely need to be done on both breasts to correct any issues with shape asymmetry once the implant is inserted.

Breast enlargement with tissue expander

If the breasts are constricted or you have breast hyperplasia where the breast tissue hasn’t matured, you may require breast enlargement with tissue expanders that work as a balloon to stretch the skin and any breast tissue present. Over a period of time, an expanded pocket in the chest can be created and then a small breast implant inserted.

Breast uplift

If the issue with breast asymmetry is caused by excessive sagging on one breast, a breast uplift will be required. By simply removing the excess skin, this alone can help to correct the problem. Some patients achieve the best results by undergoing a combined breast lift and breast reduction procedure. Cosmetic breast specialist Mr Anthony MacQuillan will be able to advise you of which approach is right for you.

Nipple repositioning

For some patients, the asymmetry issues are centred around the nipples. One nipple may be higher up than the other, but the overall size and shape of the breasts remains the same. In these cases, nipple repositioning would be the best treatment option.

Mr MacQuillan will reposition and resize if necessary, the nipples and the areolas. Just one nipple may need to be repositioned, though to achieve best results both may need to be moved. This procedure may also be combined with a breast lift for a perkier, more aesthetically pleasing result.

Breast reduction

If one breast is significantly larger than the other, a breast reduction would be the recommended option. Although patients may prefer to increase the size of the smaller breast, better asymmetry tends to be achieved when the larger breast is reduced.

Part of the tissue and fat of the larger breast will be removed either via an incision, or liposuction. Your surgeon will talk you through the procedure and the type of results you can expect to experience.

Is surgery required for breast asymmetry?

Surgery is the most effective way to treat breast asymmetry. However, in cases where asymmetry is mild and barely noticeable, surgery may be unnecessary. It is important for patients to understand that mild asymmetry is normal, and surgery won’t produce a significant improvement. Surgery should also be delayed in adolescent girls as asymmetry is common during puberty but could correct itself in time.

Those who are experiencing more severe asymmetry issues will, therefore, benefit the most from surgery. The above are the various options available to patients, though a consultation will need to be provided in order to determine which one is right for you. With any breast asymmetry correcting procedure, there are risks and complications that patients should be aware of.