Tissue Expansion

Tissue Expansion with Dr. Walter Erhardt in Albany, Georgia

Tissue expansion is a versatile and natural way to replace lost or damaged skin by essentially "growing" extra skin for use on almost any part of the body. It is commonly used during reconstructive procedures like breast reconstruction or to repair birth defects or injury.

Board-certified plastic surgeon Dr. Walter Erhardt specializes in various reconstructive techniques at his Albany, GA practice. If you're considering reconstructive surgery, he would be happy to sit down with you for a one-on-one consultation.

Benefits of Tissue Expansion

  • Tissue expansion is a unique procedure that can benefit many types of reconstruction. It is most often used during breast reconstruction, but it is also frequently used to replace lost tissue on the face, neck, hands, arms or legs.
  • Unlike many other reconstructive techniques, tissue expansion offers an almost perfect match of color and texture. The skin may also be able to grow hair, making tissue expansion one of the most natural reconstructive techniques.
  • Because the skin doesn't have to be moved, the donor area's blood and nerve supply remains intact – meaning there is a smaller risk that it will die. There is a reduced risk of visible scarring.

Almost anyone in need of additional skin can benefit from tissue expansion. Tissue expansion is more difficult on the back, torso and other areas of the body with thicker skin. Additionally, tissue expansion requires healthy skin. If the affected area is severely scarred, it may not be right for tissue expansion.

How Tissue Expansion Works

Your consultation: During your consultation, it's important to be honest and upfront about your medical history, reconstructive expectations and recovery goals. Your consultation will begin with a physical exam, followed by an in-depth discussion of tissue. You will also have the opportunity to view Dr. Erhardt's gallery of before and after patient photos.

Surgery: Tissue expansion takes place as a separate procedure prior to the actual date of your reconstructive surgery. Multiple visits to our clinic will be required. Prior to surgery, general anesthesia or intravenous sedation will be administered. A balloon-like expander will then be inserted into a pocket created beneath your skin. The expander itself will be attached to small tube and and a filling valve, which will be kept close to the surface of the skin. The expander will be partially filled with saline (saltwater) and the incisions will be closed with fine sutures.

Repeat visits, usually on a weekly basis, will be needed to inject additional saline into the expander. The skin will gradually stretch or "grow" over time. Once enough skin has been created, the expander will be surgically removed. The new skin will be stretched over the area requiring reconstruction and secured in place with sutures.

Healing time: Swelling, bruising, tightness and discomfort are all common during the recovery phase. Oral pain medication may be recommended. Most patients are able to resume work and other daily routines within a few days of surgery. Physical exercise should be avoided for a few weeks. More recovery time may be required after your second surgery.

Expected Results: Generally speaking, the results of tissue expansion are often superior to other reconstructive methods. However, it's important to remember that the final results may not be perfect. The ultimate goal is improvement, not perfection. Dr. Erhardt will be able to provide you with realistic expectations following an in-house consultation.

Schedule a Consultation with Dr. Erhardt

If you're ready to learn more about tissue expansion, call 229-432-9325 to inquire about a consultation with Dr. Erhardt. Our plastic surgery practice is located at 506 Fourth Avenue, Albany, GA 31701.