Category Archives: Expander Implants

How To Relieve Pain From Tissue Expanders – Naturally

One of the things I hear most frequently from women going through breast implant reconstruction is their pain and frustration over those darned tissue expanders, so today I’m offering some information on how to relieve the pain from tissue expanders – naturally.

Tissue expanders are temporary devices implanted within chest muscles after a mastectomy, the main goal being to expand the tissues of the chest in order to accommodate an implant after removal of the patient’s own breast.  The point of the tissue expanders is to make room for a permanent breast implant, and it is the muscles that are being stretched that are the source of the pain and discomfort.

Depending on the elasticity of your skin, it can be a very painful and uncomfortable process.  This is not true for everyone and it should be said that the pain and discomfort are temporary.  But for those going through it, it can be pretty miserable, so here is some help for you.

There are certain essential oils that are very good for improving the elasticity of skin, the best ones being lavender, myrrh and geranium.  The essential oils of wintergreen, peppermint and copaiba can also help to relieve pain and inflammation – without the use of NSAIDS, opiates (Yes!  I know one doctor who prescribes Vicodin for this pain!) or other pharmaceutical drugs.

How to Relieve Pain From Tissue Expanders – Naturally

You will need:

1 small glass bowl

1 larger glass bowl

Organic, unrefined coconut oil

Essential oils:

For improving skin elasticity  – lavender, myrrh and geranium – make sure they’re therapeutic grade, I only use Young Living Essential Oils

For pain relief and inflammation – wintergreen, peppermint, copaiba, clove

Step 1.  We will work on pain relief first.  Put about 1/2 tsp of coconut oil into the smaller glass bowl, set aside for a moment.
Step 1
Step 1

 

 

 

 

 

 Step 2.  Pour boiling water into the larger second bowl.
Step 2
Step 2

 

 

 

 

 

Step 3.  Place the smaller glass bowl containing the coconut oil into the larger glass bowl.  The boiling water will melt and warm the coconut oil.  Once the coconut oil has melted, usually after a minute or two, just add 2-3 drops of each of wintergreen, peppermint and/or copaiba or clove (you can skip the boiling water and melting part of this if it’s a hot day and your coconut oil is already liquid!).
Step 3
Step 3

 

 

 

 

 

Step 4.  Now dip your fingertips into the bowl containing the oils and gently massage into the sore tissues of your chest that are being expanded.  Easy does it.  These particular oils really help relieve pain and inflammation, as will the gentle massage.  You could also do some gentle movement like yoga stretching.  A cold gel pack can help a lot with pain if you’re in a hurry.

For Improving Elasticity of Tissue

Just go through steps 1-4 above, only substitute 2-3 drops each of lavender, geranium and/or myrrh.  They all help to improve the elasticity of the skin, as will the warm coconut oil and gentle massage.
You can use this procedure as often as needed.

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The information provided on this site is for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for advice from your physician or other health care professional.  You should not use the information on this site for diagnosis or treatment of any health problem and please be sure to consult your health care professional when making decisions about your health.

Types of Reconstruction Surgery – Expander Implants

Types of Reconstruction Surgery Expander Implants
Photo courtesy of Johns Hopkins Medicine

Following on my series of articles about the different types of reconstruction surgery, today I’m discussing expander implants after mastectomy.

What Is Tissue Expansion?

A tissue expander is used widely in breast reconstruction when there is not enough skin to accommodate a permanent implant to restore a woman’s natural appearance.

A tissue expander is a temporary device that is placed on the chest wall under the pectoralis major muscle. This may be done immediately following a mastectomy, or it can be done later. The tissue expander’s purpose is to create a soft pocket to contain a permanent implant.  Tissue expanders come in a variety of shapes and sizes.

According to PlasticSurgery.org tissue expansion is a “relatively straightforward procedure that enables the body to ‘grow’ extra skin for use in reconstructing almost any part of the body.  A silicone balloon expander is inserted under the skin near the area to be repaired and then gradually filled with salt water over time, causing the skin to stretch and grow.”  It is a staged approach.

Most expanders have a fill port that is built into the front of the device, and this is accessed with a needle through the skin.  Expansion only takes about a minute, and the amount of fluid that is placed in it is limited by the tightness of the patient’s skin. A typical volume for each expansion procedure is 50 cc’s of saline (about 10 teaspoons).

Once Tissue Expansion Is Achieved…

Once expansion of your tissue is completed and you are cleared for another operation (about one month after finishing chemotherapy), the second stage of reconstruction is performed.  This is an outpatient procedure that involves exchanging the expander for an implant, and creating a more refined breast shape. The initial tissue expander placement, and subsequent exchange for an implant, each take about 1 hour in the operating room.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Tissue Expanders

The good part about the procedure is that tissue expansion offers a very good to near-perfect match of color, texture, and hair-bearing qualities, also because the skin remains connected to the donor area’s blood and nerve supply, there is a smaller risk that it will die. In addition, because the skin doesn’t have to be moved from one area to another, as it does with the various flap surgeries I’ve written about lately, scars are often less apparent.

The disadvantage of the procedure is that it takes rather a long time to grow additional skin. Depending on the area to be reconstructed, tissue expansion can take as long as three to four months.

Also, the procedure requires repeated visits to the surgeon for injection of the salt water that inflates the balloon.  And from what I’ve learned from those enduring this procedure, IT’S DAMNED UNCOMFORTABLE, I don’t care what the surgeons say.  I’ve heard the complaints – they discuss the discomfort of having these foreign objects in their chests that are regularly inflated so that it feels like their breasts are going to explode, the necessity for sleeping in a recliner chair because they can’t roll onto their sides or stomachs for at least two months, the drains going from the surgical sites drive them nuts, healing sometimes takes a long time…

I’m not saying don’t have this – just be aware of the pitfalls.  Make sure you discuss this procedure thoroughly with your surgeon and ensure it’s the best one for you and your particular needs before you proceed.

Reference Articles:

http://www.breastreconstruction.org/TypesOfReconstruction/ExpanderImplant.html

breastcancer.org discussion forums

http://plasticsurgery.org

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