Acellular dermis-assisted prosthetic breast reconstruction: a systematic and critical review of efficacy and associated morbidity

Plast Reconstr Surg. 2011 Dec;128(6):1162-1169. doi: 10.1097/PRS.0b013e318230c29e.


Background: The use of acellular dermal matrix to assist in two-stage expander/implant breast reconstruction has increased over recent years. However, there are questions regarding the potential for increased morbidity when using these techniques relative to standard submuscular coverage techniques. This systematic review combines published data comparing the techniques, to compare morbidity and advantages of acellular dermal matrix relative to standard submuscular coverage techniques.

Methods: An English language literature search was performed to find articles reporting outcomes of two-stage expander/implant reconstruction using acellular dermal matrix. The outcome categories analyzed were patient/treatment demographics, tissue expander characteristics, and complications.

Results: Nine articles met inclusion criteria for this analysis. Six of these were matched cohort studies comparing outcomes of acellular dermal matrix techniques to standard submuscular techniques. The remaining three were case series of acellular dermal matrix techniques. The only difference found in complications was a higher rate of seroma for the acellular dermal matrix group (4.3 percent versus 8.4 percent, p = 0.03). Despite this, both groups illustrated similar rates of infection leading to explantation (3.2 percent for submuscular and 3.4 percent for acellular dermal matrix, p = 0.18). In addition, acellular dermal matrix techniques illustrated greater intraoperative fill volumes and consistently fewer fills required to reach expander capacity.

Conclusions: The use of acellular dermal matrix in two-stage expander/implant reconstruction offers a safety profile similar to that of standard submuscular techniques. Both techniques have shown similar rates of infection ultimately requiring explantation. In addition, acellular dermal matrix offers the advantage of a more rapid reconstruction with less need for manipulation of the prosthetic through filling.

Clinical question/level of evidence: Therapeutic, III.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Biocompatible Materials*
  • Breast Implants*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Collagen*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mammaplasty / methods*
  • Postoperative Complications / etiology*
  • Postoperative Complications / surgery
  • Prosthesis-Related Infections / etiology
  • Prosthesis-Related Infections / surgery
  • Reoperation
  • Seroma / etiology
  • Surgical Wound Infection / etiology
  • Surgical Wound Infection / surgery
  • Tissue Expansion Devices


  • Alloderm
  • Biocompatible Materials
  • Collagen