Background: Tissue expansion is a well-recognized technique for reconstructing a wide variety of skin and soft tissue defects. Its application in the pediatric population has enabled the plastic surgeon to achieve functional and aesthetic goals that were previously unobtainable.
Objectives: To review the use of tissue expansion in the pediatric population, with particular emphasis on indication, operative technique, regional considerations and how to avoid complications.
Methods: We retrospectively reviewed data on 103 expanded flap reconstructions performed in 41 pediatric patients during the period 2003–2006. Tissue expanders were placed on a subcutaneous plane above the fascia and inflated weekly. The expanded skin was used as a transposition flap or a full thickness skin graft for the reconstruction of the involved area. Forty-three tissue expanders were inserted to the head and neck in 21 patients, 45 were inserted to the trunk in 13 patients and 15 were inserted to the groin and lower extremity in 8 patients. Twenty-eight patients had one round of tissue expansion, while 13 patients had two to six rounds. A plastic surgeon, medical student and a lawyer reviewed the patients' photographs and evaluated their aesthetic outcome:
Results: Eighty-six percent of the head and neck reconstructions and 40% of the trunk and extremity reconstructions were graded as having excellent aesthetic outcome, and 11% of the head and neck reconstructions and 37% of the trunk and extremity reconstructions were graded with good aesthetic outcome. The remaining patients were graded with moderate outcome. None of our patients was graded as poor aesthetic outcome. Complications included infection in 6 patients (6%), extrusion in 3 (3%), hematoma in 2 (2%), flap ischemia in one patient (1%), and expander perforation after percutaneous stabbing in one patient (1%).
Conclusions: Tissue expansion is an efficient and valuable technique for reconstruction of large skin lesions and scars.