How is Alloderm Used During Breast Reconstruction?

How do medical products like Alloderm aid in breast reconstruction procedures?

Doctor Answers 34

Alloderm inBreast Reconstruction

Reconstruction using a breast implant can generally be accomplished in one of two ways:

* Using a tissue matrix such as AlloDerm in conjunction with a breast implant in a single stage procedure
* Using a tissue expander that is subsequently replaced by a breast implant; this process requires two separate procedures, usually months apart

Breast implants used in reconstruction cannot generally be placed directly in the space created by the removal of breast tissue. The reason for this is that an implant placed directly below the skin will generally not produce cosmetically desirable results and has a high risk of eroding through the surgical incision or through the skin itself.

With the use of a tissue matrix such as Alloderm®, some women are able to avoid the tissue-expansion phase of breast reconstruction in what has been termed a “straight-to-implant” procedure. During this kind of surgery, the lower edge of the pectoralis muscle is detached from the chest and lifted up to form the upper part of a “pocket” that will eventually contain a breast implant. The upper portion of the breast implant is placed under the lifted muscle; tissue matrix is then used to span the space between the edge of the detached muscle and the chest, thereby covering the lower portion of the breast implant. The tissue matrix is attached between the muscle edge and the chest wall so that behind the muscle and the implanted tissue matrix a pocket large enough to accommodate an implant can be created without the need for tissue expansion. Typically, small- to medium-sized breasts can be reconstructed in this manner. (Keep in mind that a second surgical procedure is still typically needed for nipple reconstruction, unless nipple-sparing mastectomy has been performed.)


In addition tissue expansion may be combined with the placement of a tissue matrix such as AlloDerm® to effect more complete coverage of the breast implant. Tissue matrix, attached to the lower edge of the pectoralis muscle and the chest wall can be draped over the lower portion of the implant to provide additional coverage of the impant in order to try to provide a somewhat more natural appearance to the reconstructed breast.

Alloderm and breast reconstruction

Alloderm, or any of the other biological products, has taken the place of the lower muscles that used to be integral to breast reconstruction with a tissue expander or implant. When undergoing breast reconstruction with a tissue expander, the expander is covered by your pectoralis major muscle. However, this only covers the top portion of the expander.

Ten years ago, the standard was to lift up some of your abdominal muscle and side muscles to cover the expander completely. Howeever, this has three problems. It was very painful after surgery, disrupted more of your natural anatomy, and did not allow the expander to really create a nice inframammary fold.

The Alloderm has taken the place of these muscles. It allows the expander to really sit where it is placed and create a nice fold, while not disrupting any other anatomy, and there is much less pain. The Alloderm gets incorporated into your own tissue by about 6 weeks, and becomes part of your natural tissue. The infection rate is extremely low, and there is no rejection of the material itself.

Christopher V. Pelletiere, MD
Barrington Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 73 reviews

Dermal matrix in breast reconstruction


Alloderm(TM) and other dermal matrix products have increasingly become the norm in tissue expander/implant reconstruction. The basic concept is that dermal matrices have no living cells anymore, but have a scaffolding, template of collagen and other structural molecules that allow your own tissue to grow along the scaffold.

Historically, when expanders/implants were used in breast reconstruction for mastectomy patients, the surgeon would lift up portions of other muscles, like the serratus anterior muscle along the outer aspect of the lower breast, to help provide complete muscle coverage over the device, since the pectorlais major muscle would typically only cover the upper 2/3 to 3/4 of the device. Remember that when a mastectomy is done, the patient no longer has as much tissue to cover the lower pole of the implant compared to a patient undergoing straightforward breast augmentation.

Now, with the advent of matrix materials, the matrix can be sewn to the lower edge of the pectoralis major muscle and the other chest wall muscles do not need to be violated. This may result in less pain, and may allow the expander/implant to sit more naturally in the lower pole of the breast. It may also allow more rapid expansion. Think of the matrix as extending the reach of the muscle, although it does not actually turn into muscle. Some products, like Alloderm (TM), are fairly "stretchy", allowing them to facilitate expansion of the breast without tightening up too much.

Dermal matrices of a less stretchy nature can also be used in the abdominal wall during TRAM flaps to reconstruct the defect in the strength layer (fascia) of the abdomen, to avoid a synthetic mesh.

There are many sources of dermal matrix, including human-, porcine- and bovine-derived products. Surgeons vary in their adoption and preferences of these products.

Tim Sayed, MD, MBA, FACS
Newport Beach Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 16 reviews

Use of alloderm after breast reconstruction

Alloderm is a tissue substitute and can be used to add buffer tissue for patients with thin skin overlying a breast implant after breast reconstruction. 

Raffy Karamanoukian, MD, FACS
Los Angeles Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 94 reviews

Role of Alloderm in Breast Reconstruction

Alloderm is a materai dervied from processed human dermis, which the strong layer of the skin.  Alloderm is used to supplement the strength and thickness of the mastectomy skin flaps to allow for use of implants in cases where the breast implant might extrude, or displace by stretching out the mastectomy flap, or be more likely to form a capsular contracture particularly after radiation therapy. 

While Alloderm may help to reduce the chance of those problems, I prefer to use the patients own tissues for breast reconstruction.

These techniques include TRAM flaps, TRAM free flaps, and DIEP perforator flaps.  For more information on these and other breast reconstruction options see 


Fredrick A. Valauri, MD
New York Plastic Surgeon

How Alloderm has helped in reconstruction

As you have read from other plastic surgeons, Alloderm is processed human tissue devoid of cells including immune markers which has greatly improved the quality, predictabilty and options in breast reconstruction. It can provide for a more predictable placement of an implant or expander in am immediate reconstruction as well as increased tissue thickness.  It also allows for more precision in the creation/preservation of the fold at the lower part of the breast.

Studies have also shown that it can lower the risk/extent of capsular contracture around the implant even in irradiated tissue which is great news for many.

Steven Turkeltaub, MD
Scottsdale Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 30 reviews


Alloderm is cadavaric skin that is treated and used as a biologic to reinforce the soft tissue coverage of the lower pole and protect the expander from exposure.

Steven Wallach, MD
New York Plastic Surgeon
4.1 out of 5 stars 28 reviews

Breast Reconstruction with Alloderm and Implants

Alloderm, or other similar products, are frequently used in breast reconstruction with expanders and implants. The expander or implant is placed below the muscle (pectoralis major). Themuscle only covers the top half of the implant. In the past, other muscles were also mobilized to cover the inferior portion of the implant or expander. In the present time, many surgeons use the Alloderm or similar acellular dermal matrix to cover the lower half of the implant. From El Paso, Las Cruces, Mexico.

Frank Agullo, MD
El Paso Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 140 reviews

AlloDerm in Breast Reconstruction

AlloDerm is utilized to facilitate one-stage and two-stage implant reconstruction after mastectomy.  AlloDerm is essentially a collagen matrix (or a sheet of collagen) that is derived from a human source.   It is used to create a retaining envelope for your implant.  Compared to traditional total muscle coverage techniques, many believe AlloDerm use decreases postoperative discomfort and significantly improves the cosmetic results of implant-based reconstruction.  

C. Bob Basu, MD, FACS
Houston Plastic Surgeon
4.7 out of 5 stars 209 reviews

Alloderm in breast reconstruction

Alloderm is a dermal matrix derived from human skin. The skin is treated to remove all the cells from the tissue, leaving essentially a sheet of collagen. Alloderm is used as a sling to cover the lower pole of the expander. The upper 2/3 of the implant are placed underneath the pectoralis muscle. The Alloderm allows for very exact placement of the lower pole of the expanded breast thus creating a much more predictable reconstruction. Over the ensuing weeks, the body will grow blood vessels into the Alloderm and will eventually incorporate the tissue. There is anecdotal evidence for lower rates of capsular contracture with use of Alloderm, as well as less pain from expansion. In my opinion, I believe that dermal matrices are becoming the norm for breast reconstruction with tissue expanders/implants.

David Bogue, MD
Boca Raton Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 25 reviews

These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.