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What are breast tissue expanders and how are they used in Breast Reconstruction

What are breast tissue expanders and how are they used in Breast Reconstruction

Breast cancer is the most common cancer globally(1) and, in many cases, the treatment includes a total or partial mastectomy. Breast reconstruction is a surgical procedure that restores the shape of your breasts after a mastectomy. Reconstructions can be immediate (during the mastectomy), delayed (later, after you have had your breast removed and healed), or a hybrid of the two approaches, called delayed–immediate. The timing and technique for the breast reconstruction procedure depend on many variables such as lifestyle, body constitution, medical history, history of previous surgeries, cancer treatments, stage, tumour size and location, and your preferences, among others.(2)

One of the options is breast reconstruction with implants, which can be immediate implant reconstruction or staged breast reconstruction. The latter involves an expansion of the breast skin and muscle using a temporary tissue expander. Breast Tissue expanders are used after a mastectomy – partial or bilateral - to increase the amount of tissue doctors must work with to recreate a breast shape. These devices come in different shapes and textures, such as smooth or textured.  The tissue expander should be the same shape as the permanent breast implant that will later be placed during a subsequent procedure. 

Tissue expanders have a similar function to a balloon but instead of air, they are inflated with saline solution. When implanted, they are initially quite flat, and then gradually, over several weeks or months, they are filled through to promote the expansion of the tissue. This process promotes the emergence of new cells and new tissue gradually to prevent tissue damage. 

The breast expander process to achieve the full volume can take up to 3-6 months and it is considered a multiple-step process. The first stage is the placement of the tissue expanders to stretch the skin with gradual expansion normally taking place every 2 weeks5, or the time your surgeon decides given your case until it reaches the breast size that you and your surgeon decided on. When the skin covering the breast area has expanded enough, the second stage of the process happens, the expander will be removed, and a permanent implant placed into the expanded pocket. 

It's important to note that tissue expanders are not intended to be permanent6 After the last tissue expansion is completed, the devices will remain in place for a minimum of 8 weeks or depending on what your Plastic Surgeon suggests. One very important advantage of replacing the tissue expander with a silicone implant is that the silicone gel implant has a more natural feel than the silicone-covered fluid in the expander. 

Reconstructing the breast and nipple is a very personal decision. Every breast cancer journey is different, and every choice for breast reconstruction is unique. At GC Aesthetics® we believe in second chances. We believe that Breast Reconstruction can help you recover from within. That is why we created the Total Breast Reconstruction™ concept, to offer you a complete portfolio designed to support the best outcome for women undergoing immediate and delayed breast reconstruction surgery. We have the Renuvé™ RVTE series the remote valve tissue expanders by GCA®, designed to gradually stretch the tissue adjacent to the implantation area, normally the skin(5).

Breast Reconstruction has positive emotional, psychological, and physical benefits3. Many women who undergo breast reconstruction report feeling “whole” again and highly recommend it to other women facing a similar decision4.  Please discuss your expectations of undergoing breast reconstruction surgery with your Surgeon and your Reconstruction options considering your particular case. He or she will be able to give you their professional view and will explain the benefits and risks of the procedures. 

*This content is for informational and educational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice or as a substitute for a consultation with a trained medical doctor or surgeon. 

GC Aesthetics®, A Confident Choice for Life™

Sources :

1. Breast Cancer Facts and Statistics | BreastCancer.org Accessed April 11th, 2022.


  1. Pacella SJ. Evolution in Tissue Expander Design for Breast Reconstruction: Technological Innovation to Optimize Patient Outcomes. Plast Reconstr Surg. 2018;142(4S The Science of Breast Implants):21S-30S. doi:10.1097/PRS.0000000000004999
  2.  Kaya B, Serel S. Breast reconstruction. Exp Oncol. 2013 Dec;35(4):280-6. PMID: 24382438.
  3. Breast Reconstruction | KeepingABreast.com Accessed April 11th 2022. https://keepingabreast.org.uk/what-isreconstruction/

5.  RVTE. Instructions for use. 2021. GC Aesthetics®.

6.  Wagh MS, Dixit V. Tissue expansion: Concepts, techniques and unfavourable results. Indian J Plast Surg.

2013;46(2):333-348. doi:10.4103/0970-0358.118612

7.  Cherubino M, et al. Breast reconstruction by tissue expansion: What is the integrity of the chest wall? J Plast Reconstr Aesthet Surg. 2016 Mar;69(3):e48-54. doi: 10.1016/j.bjps.2015.11.020. Epub 2015 Dec 20. PMID: 26867468.

8.  FixNip LTD. Internal data, 2022.





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The information presented here is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. All content and information contained on or available through this website is for general information purposes only. GC Aesthetics® makes no representation and assumes no responsibility for the accuracy of the information contained here, and such information is subject to change without notice. You are encouraged to confirm any information obtained from or through this content with other sources and review all information regarding any medical condition or treatment with your physician.