Tissue Expander Placement, Caring for Your Child
What are tissue expanders?
Tissue expanders are used to stretch skin for use in skin grafting or for other reasons that your doctor will explain. This will increase the amount of skin that can be used for the graft. Healthy skin most like the area that needs grafting is chosen for expansion.
The surgery is done in two steps. First, silicone implants are placed under the skin. The incision is only large enough to insert the implant. The implants are slowly filled with a salt solution (saline) over weeks or months. This allows them to slowly expand and stretch the skin. Second, surgery is done to remove the implant and use the new skin for grafting.
What to expect after surgery
- An intravenous line (IV) to supply fluids and medicines to your child.
- A sore throat for a few days. This is from the breathing tube used during surgery.
- A chance of nausea and vomiting from the anesthesia.
- Narrow pieces of tape at the expander site. They should fall off on their own in about a week.
- Stitches to be removed in about 7-10 days.
Once the anesthesia has worn off, your child will have a little pain at the implant site. Most of the time, this pain can be controlled with acetaminophen (Tylenol®).
Try to have quiet time for the first day. This will give your child a chance to recover from the anesthesia. After the first day, your child can do whatever he feels up to doing. There aren't any things that your child can't do while the expander is in place. Try to avoid a sudden puncture to the site.
Your child's first meal should be fairly light. Your child may advance to a usual diet when ready. Give your child lots of liquids.
Your child may have a follow-up visit with the doctor in 1-2 weeks. The doctor will check the incision for healing. At this time, the doctor may inflate the implant with saline. The tissue stretches slowly, and the pressure may be slightly uncomfortable. Your child may feel better during this time if you give him Tylenol® or ibuprofen before the visit.
When to call your doctor or nurse
Call if you have any questions or concerns about your child, or there are any problems.
- Bleeding from the incision
- Signs of infections (increased redness, warmth or swelling at the incision site or pus-like drainage)
- Temperature over 100°F when taken under the arm, over 101°F when taken by mouth or in the ear, or 102°F when taken by rectum
- Frequent vomiting
- Pain not controlled by medicine
Plastic Surgery Clinic, weekdays 8:00 am to 5:00 pm, (608) 263-7502
After hours, nights, weekends, and holidays, this number will be answered by the paging operator. Ask for the plastic surgery resident on call. Leave your name and phone number with the area code. The doctor will call you back.
If you live outside the Madison area, call1-800-323-8942.
The information provided should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
Last Updated: 07/29/2011
Copyright © 07/29/2011 University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#5525
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