The Tissue Expansion Process Explained

Posted in News

One month following my prophylactic bilateral mastectomy and I’ve had my first fill.  What is a ‘fill’ you ask?  I should probably use the correct term, which is tissue expansion.

Officially, the breast reconstruction with implants process that I’m undertaking is referred to as a Two-Stage Breast Reconstruction.

A two-stage breast reconstruction with implants is a very popular option.  This procedure can be done either at the time of mastectomy or at a later stage (delayed).

How It Works

A temporary breast tissue expander is placed in the chest.  Over a period of weeks, the doctor gradually fills the expander with saline, which is similar to saltwater. During this process, the skin gradually stretches and grows to make room for the implant as it expands.  The idea is that the body will slowly adjust to the growth of the implant in the same manner a woman’s body adjusts to the gradual growth of her abdomen when she is pregnant.  The tissue expander looks like this….

Mentor Tissue Expander

When the breast tissue is completely removed, the tissue expander is then placed under the peck muscle and in my case, the tissue expander was filled with a small amount of saline in it.  I had 50ml of saline put into each tissue expander at the time of the original surgery.

Some interesting things you might not know…….

  • The weight of my actual original breast tissue on the right breast was 314g and the left breast was 275g
  • I now have 130ml on both the left and the right side
  • My chest circumference pre-surgery was 84cm, post surgery 81cm (50ml L&R) and post tissue expansion # 1 it’s 86cm (130ml L&R)
  • When you hug me, my chest is as hard as a rock!
  • The expanders are temporary and will be replaced with a saline implant once the expansion process is complete

I’m still pain free and feeling like everything is on track for a full recovery.   I tried to take a before and after selfie, but I’m not so sure that you can see a significant change.  This is my ‘before’ photo in the car just moments prior to my appointment. The ‘after’ shot didn’t really look much different, so I decided to take a topless side selfie, which appears further down.

photo 1

I’m pretty flat chested in the photo above and to be honest, I have become quite accustomed to it.  The expansion process itself took just a few minutes and instantly I had a whole ‘hand full’ on each side.  As I mentioned above, you can see the expansion best with the side-by-side comparison shot.

Side Collage

It’s still relatively small, so I’d expect that with another fill or two, it’s going to be well and truly big enough.

I will admit, the whole reconstruction process is still more foreign to me than the bilateral mastectomy itself.  I’m worried that once I have an expansion, that I’ll end up being bigger than I want to be and there’s no going back from there.  I trust my surgeon implicitly and I know she’s going to ensure that I don’t end up looking too top heavy so my clothes no longer fit me.   Once the tissue expansion process is complete, the expander will be removed and replaced. The end result will just be a small reconstructed breast without a nipple, enough so I fill out my existing clothes and natural looking ‘foob’ (fake boob).

I’ll finish today with a short video of my results following the first tissue expansion.

It comes with a disclaimer for those who are a little squeamish about seeing surgical wounds.  It’s in no way meant to be anything other than an informative update for those who have supported me through the past 4 weeks.   I’m now well on my way to a full recovery and I thank you for your continued support.

Yas xxxx