Tissue expansion is a specialised technique to create extra unscarred skin to address an area of scar or skin abnormality. Common times when this technique is used include:
(1) returning hair to the scalp when an injury (for example a burn or a skin infection) has caused a loss of hair bearing skin,
(2) creating additional healthy skin to cover a scarred area (eg following a burn or other traumatic injury),
(3) creating additional healthy skin to be used in covering an area where a large mole needs to be removed (commonly done for large moles in children), and
(4) in creating additional skin in the breast area following surgery to remove breast cancer.
Tissue expansion is a 2 stage surgical procedure. At the first stage, silicone-lined balloons are placed under the normal skin at the edge of the area to be reconstructed. Over the next 4-8 weeks, fluid is gradually injected into the balloons, at visits to a clinic as an outpatient. This is tolerated well by most children over the age of 7-8 years and in adults. A second operation removes the balloon, and uses the additional ‘expanded’ skin to cover over the area to be reconstructed.
In Australia, this procedure is covered by Medicare, so is available in Public hospitals with a specialised Plastic surgery unit. When performed in the public system, there is usually no charge, but you would need to wait on a waiting list, and the procedure would be performed by a trainee surgeon under the supervision of a specialist. The procedure may also be undertaken in the private system if the patient has private insurance (please check to ensure there is no exclusion for plastic surgery, and that the policy covers this type of procedure -most good policies will) -if done privately, you can choose your specialist and timing. Good luck!
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