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Plast Reconstr Surg. 2012 Oct;130(4):739-46.

Human acellular dermis versus no acellular dermis in tissue expansion breast reconstruction.

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Plastic Surgery Group of Memphis, Tenn., USA.



Human acellular dermis has been adopted for routine use in tissue expander reconstruction. The purported benefits include higher intraoperative fill volume, facilitation of lower pole expansion, and enhanced definition of the lower pole of the breast. Recently, concerns have arisen about an increase in postoperative complications with its use.


A retrospective review was conducted of patients who had immediate postmastectomy breast reconstruction with a tissue expander from July of 2001 to July of 2011. All tissue expander reconstructions before 2005 were performed submuscularly only and all subsequent to 2005 with the use of AlloDerm (LifeCell, Branchburg, N.J.) acellular dermis. Patient demographics were collected, and complications were recorded.


The study cohort included 346 patients and 511 immediate breast reconstructions; 232 patients and 346 breasts were reconstructed with and 114 patients and 165 breasts without acellular dermis. Age, body mass index, diabetes, and tobacco use were equivalent in the two groups. Seroma occurrence in the acellular dermis group was nearly twice (30.0 versus 15.1 percent) that of the no acellular dermis breasts, but the tissue expander loss was only slightly higher (11.6 versus 8.5 percent) and not statistically significant. Body mass index in patients who lost their tissue expander was 31 kg/m, statistically significantly higher than in those who did not.


The presence of acellular dermis did not increase the incidence of tissue expander loss, despite a doubling of frequency of seroma. Prior radiation and use of acellular dermis did culminate in a prohibitively high loss rate of the tissue expander.

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