Mechanisms of action of external volume expansion devices

Plast Reconstr Surg. 2013 Sep;132(3):569-578. doi: 10.1097/PRS.0b013e31829ace30.


Background: External volume expansion by suction has been proposed to improve the survival of fat grafting by preparing the recipient site. In previous experimental work, external volume expansion demonstrated the capacity to stimulate cell proliferation, vessel remodeling, and adipogenesis. This study investigated possible mechanisms underlying these observed changes.

Methods: A miniaturized external volume expansion device was applied to the dorsum of mice for 2 hours. Hypoxia during stimulation was assessed with pimonidazole hydrochloride, and tissue perfusion was measured for up to 2 days using hyperspectral imaging. Treated tissues were evaluated by microscopy for edema, inflammation, and the effects on cell proliferation and vessel remodeling.

Results: External volume expansion-treated tissues were grossly expanded with 2 hours of stimulation, developing a macroscopic swelling that regressed slowly over the course of hours following stimulus cessation. This gross swelling was reflective of histologic signs of intense edema, persistent for at least 1 hour after external volume expansion. Tissues were hypoxic during stimulation, and hyperspectral imaging demonstrated decreased tissue content of both oxygenated and deoxygenated hemoglobin in the first hour after external volume expansion release. The onset of inflammation was already apparent by the end of stimulation and remained elevated through 2 days after external volume expansion. At this time point, epidermal and dermal cell proliferation and vascular density were significantly increased.

Conclusion: External volume expansion sets in motion various mechanisms, including mechanical stimulation, edema, ischemia, and inflammation, that over distinct time periods maintain an environment conducive to cell proliferation and angiogenesis, which can be elicited even by a single 2-hour external volume expansion cycle.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Dermis* / blood supply
  • Dermis* / pathology
  • Dermis* / physiology
  • Edema / diagnosis
  • Edema / etiology
  • Epidermis* / pathology
  • Epidermis* / physiology
  • Hypoxia / diagnosis
  • Hypoxia / etiology
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Inflammation / diagnosis
  • Inflammation / etiology
  • Linear Models
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Neovascularization, Physiologic
  • Optical Imaging
  • Tissue Expansion / adverse effects
  • Tissue Expansion / instrumentation*
  • Tissue Expansion / methods
  • Tissue Expansion Devices* / adverse effects