Tissue expanders - length of time in body safely?

I had tissue expanders (Mentor saline shells with saline fill) placed 27 years ago for reconstruction after a bilateral mastectomy. Because I had some serious complications at the time, they have never been replaced. I saw my original surgeon in San Francisco a few years back and he recommended replacement because of concern about potential breakage/leakage. The surgeon in my new home state had me undergo a breast MRI and says it's safe to keep them indefinitely. No obvious breast changes.

Doctor Answers 1

Tissue expanders - length of time in body safely?

Thank you for your question. It is almost unheard of for tissue expanders to be in for that long! Not to say that it is unsafe, but the tissue expander is meant to be a temporary device. If the expander is not leaking and there are no signs of rupture or problems, and you are happy with the overall appearance and shape of your breasts, then I suppose there is no urgent indication for intervention. 

That being said, a 27 year old tissue expander should probably be replaced to be on the safe side. Tissue expanders tend to be rather stiff and unforgiving and a permanent silicone implant will likely be much softer and more comfortable for you and provide a better breast shape. You should see a local board certified plastic surgeon to go over your reconstruction history and at least discuss the possibility of completing your reconstruction with removal of the expanders and placement of permanent implants.

Best of luck!

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