Tissue expansion is a surgical process that is done in order to increase the surface area of local tissue that is available for reconstructive purposes. Tissue expansion is a process, and not a single procedure. During the first operation, an incision is made adjacent to the area to be reconstructed, a tissue expander is inserted, and the incision is closed. A tissue expander is a device that is similar to a saline breast implant, except that it has a metallic filling port. This port can be integrated into the expansion device, or attached by a remote fill tubing. This port allows filling with saline during the initial implant operation, as well as during subsequent weeks in the office. Placing saline (sterile salt water) into the port gradually enlarges the device which subsequently stretches or expands the overlying skin. Once the skin has been expanded to the proper level, the expander can be removed and the planned reconstructive procedure can be performed. Tissue expanders are commonly used for the first stage of implant-based breast reconstruction. However, tissue expanders can be used to assist reconstruction in many other areas of the body such as the scalp, the torso and the legs.
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