Tabbed Tissue Expanders Improve Breast Symmetry Scores in Breast Reconstruction

  • Khavanin, Nima (Division of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, Northwestern University, Feinberg School of Medicine) ;
  • Gust, Madeleine J. (Division of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, Northwestern University, Feinberg School of Medicine) ;
  • Grant, David W. (Division of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, Northwestern University, Feinberg School of Medicine) ;
  • Nguyen, Khang T. (Division of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, Northwestern University, Feinberg School of Medicine) ;
  • Kim, John Y.S. (Division of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, Northwestern University, Feinberg School of Medicine)
  • Received : 2013.06.14
  • Accepted : 2013.08.08
  • Published : 2014.01.15


Background Achieving symmetry is a key goal in breast reconstruction. Anatomically shaped tabbed expanders are a new tool in the armamentarium of the breast reconstruction surgeon. Suture tabs allow for full control over the expander position and thus inframammary fold position, and, in theory, tabbed expanders mitigate many factors responsible for poor symmetry. The impact of a tabbed expander on breast symmetry, however, has not been formally reported. This study aims to evaluate breast symmetry following expander-implant reconstruction using tabbed and non-tabbed tissue expanders. Methods A chart review was performed of 188 consecutive expander-implant reconstructions that met the inclusion criteria of adequate follow-up data and postoperative photographs. Demographic, oncologic, postoperative complication, and photographic data was obtained for each patient. The photographic data was scored using a 4-point scale assessing breast symmetry by three blinded, independent reviewers. Results Of the 188 patients, 74 underwent reconstruction with tabbed expanders and 114 with non-tabbed expanders. The tabbed cohort had significantly higher symmetry scores than the non-tabbed cohort ($2.82/4{\pm}0.86$ vs. $2.55/4{\pm}0.92$, P=0.034). Conclusions The use of tabbed tissue expanders improves breast symmetry in tissue expander-implant-based breast reconstruction. Fixation of the expander to the chest wall allows for more precise control over its location and counteracts the day-to-day translational forces that may influence the shape and location of the expander pocket, mitigating many factors responsible for breast asymmetry.


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