Many women who undergo mastectomies opt for breast reconstruction. AlloDerm® Regenerative Tissue Matrix, which is manufactured by LifeCell, is frequently used during the reconstruction process. AlloDerm tissue can replace some of the breast tissue removed during surgery and provide support for implants. It is created by taking tissue from a carefully screened donor (cadaver), and then putting the tissue through a cell-removal process that reduces the likelihood of rejection, yet leaves the basic tissue structure intact. Because it is produced from natural human tissue, it is not only well-tolerated but actually grows into the patient's tissue for a strong, natural repair. The product is also used for some types of head and neck plastic-surgery reconstruction, and for hernia repair. According to its manufacturer, AlloDerm Regenerative Tissue Matrix has been used successfully in more than one million grafts and implants.
How AlloDerm Regenerative Tissue Matrix Works
Breast reconstruction may be done in one step or two, with the two-step procedure used in the majority of cases.
In the two-step procedure, a new breast is created by first using a tissue expander, which is a temporary implant filled with saline. By periodically injecting more saline into the tissue expander, the skin stretches to create a soft pocket designed to hold a permanent implant. The tissue expander is put in place right after the breast is removed. To stabilize the tissue expander, it is placed under AlloDerm tissue, which is sewn from the pectoralis major muscle to the chest wall. Breast skin then grows into the AlloDerm tissue, which forms an extra protective layer between the implant, when it is inserted, and the surface of the breast. The AlloDerm tissue is positioned to provide the correct shape and foundation for the implant.
In the second stage of the procedure, which takes place approximately 12 to 24 weeks after the skin is sufficiently expanded, the permanent implant is inserted.
In the single-step procedure, a breast is created at the time of removal. AlloDerm tissue is sewn to the chest muscle to provide a hammock-like support for the implant. The AlloDerm tissue is essentially making the chest-muscle space larger, allowing a permanent full-sized breast implant to be inserted without having to use a tissue expander. The single-step procedure works best for women with small to moderate-sized breasts and good-quality skin tissue, and who are having mastectomies when their cancer is in its early stages. Women having preventative mastectomies because they are at high risk for breast cancer are also good candidates.
Advantages Of Using AlloDerm Regenerative Tissue Matrix
In addition to allowing for single-step breast reconstruction because of tissue expansion, using AlloDerm tissue may result in more natural-looking breasts than when implants alone are used. Breast reconstruction incorporating AlloDerm tissue may provide the following advantages:
- Increased support for the implants
- Reduced visibility of implants
- Better definition of the breast fold
- Skin reinforcement and prevention of thinning
- Prevention of pectoral muscle retraction
AlloDerm Regenerative Tissue Matrix is also often used for purely cosmetic breast surgery.