Once the radiation is completed and the tissue has been given time to heal, the burned tissue expander and its capsule are removed and this pocket is filled with the patient’s own healthy tissue. This tissue is taken from an area of excess, often the abdomen, using advanced techniques such as a DIEP flap to bring in healthy, well-oxygenated, soft and supple tissue for a long-term, better result.
At the time I elected to have a tissue expander I didn't think I would need radiation but after discovery of 4 pos nodes, I had to have radiation after the tissue expander was placed. Now I'm finished with rads and am waiting for skin to recuperate before implant switch.
The use of expander-implants for immediate breast reconstruction and subsequent radiation of the chest wall has been evaluated.
The expanders – saline-filled bags commonly used in plastic surgery to create new skin – were kept in place but deflated for radiotherapy, which allowed for optimal access to treatment fields; the final reconstruction, successful in 90% of women, came a median of 7 months following radiation.
After your mastectomy (surgery to remove your breast), you’ll have a breast reconstruction surgery using a tissue expander. A tissue expander is an empty breast implant that your surgeon will fill with normal saline over about 6 to 8 weeks until it reaches the breast size that you and your surgeon decided on.
The tissue expander may not be affected much by the radiation, and may still proceed with the regular expansion. However, there might be a delay in the eventual placing of the permanent implants since these should be placed after the radiation treatment (and after the radiated area healed properly).
inserting a permanent expander (with a plastic port) that will become your implant after radiation therapy is finished In some cases, your plastic surgeon may recommend using a surgical mesh or dermal matrix product that covers the implant and provides a structure for your skin to grow in and around.
The expanders did not cause any difficulty with the radiation. I think if the skin is expanded before radiation or several months afterward when the skin has had time to "settle" it is OK. I had to wait at least 10 months after radiation for surgery because it takes the skin and internal tissue to achieve a new "normal" after radiation.
During recovery time, the tissue expander is injected with saline to gradually expand the healing breast tissue to the desired reconstructed size. Then an implant or tissue from another part of the body will replace it. This is why it’s called a two-stage reconstruction.