Pediatric Tissue Expansion: Predictors of Premature Expander Removal in a Single Surgeon's Experience with 472 Expanders

Plast Reconstr Surg. 2020 Mar;145(3):755-762. doi: 10.1097/PRS.0000000000006550.


Background: Tissue expansion is used for soft-tissue reconstruction in pediatric patients. The expansion process can be complicated by infection and extrusion, leading to premature expander removal. The aim of this study was to identify risk factors associated with premature expander removal caused by infection or extrusion in pediatric patients.

Methods: A retrospective study of pediatric patients who underwent tissue expansion performed by the senior author (R.J.R.) over a 12-year period was performed. Predictor variables included age, sex, race, indication, anatomical location, number of expanders, serial expansion, and expander size. Bivariate and multivariate analyses were performed to identify risk factors for premature expander removal.

Results: A total of 139 patients with 472 expanders were included in this study. Complications occurred with 78 expanders (16.5 percent). Premature expander removal caused by infection or exposure occurred with 51 expanders (10.8 percent). In terms of location, the highest rates of premature removal occurred in the lower extremity (20.0 percent) and scalp (16.3 percent). Multivariate analysis identified younger age (0 to 6 years compared with 13 to 17 years; OR, 3.98; 95 percent CI, 1.13 to 14.08; p = 0.03), greater number of expanders (OR, 1.45; 95 percent CI, 1.03 to 2.03; p = 0.03), and lower extremity location (OR, 4.27; 95 percent CI, 1.45 to 12.53; p = 0.008) were associated with an increased odds of premature expander removal.

Conclusions: Expander removal occurred in approximately 10 percent of tissue expanders. Odds of premature removal is increased with younger age, greater number of expanders, and lower extremity location.

Clinical question/level of evidence: Risk, III.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Age Factors
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Device Removal / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Lower Extremity / surgery
  • Male
  • Prosthesis-Related Infections / epidemiology*
  • Prosthesis-Related Infections / etiology
  • Prosthesis-Related Infections / surgery
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Scalp / surgery
  • Time Factors
  • Tissue Expansion / adverse effects*
  • Tissue Expansion / instrumentation
  • Tissue Expansion Devices / adverse effects*