Cosmetic Surgery Tips

Cadaver Skin Used In Breast Reconstruction

Breast reconstruction is a common procedure that involves the use of cadaver skin to replace tissue and fat that has been removed from the breast during cancer treatment. Cadaver skin is often used to reconstruct the nipple, areola, and a portion of the breast mound. The use of cadaver skin in breast reconstruction is becoming increasingly common due to its ability to provide a natural appearance, which can reduce anxiety for many patients.

The goal of this article is to provide an overview of cadaver skin use in breast reconstruction as well as discuss some of the key benefits and risks associated with it.

You can also read about what is alloderm used for and alloderm side effects.

Cadaver Skin Used In Breast Reconstruction

What is AlloDerm?

Dr. Wallach often uses a medical material called AlloDerm during breast reconstruction procedures. Read on to learn all about AlloDerm and its benefits.

AlloDerm is an acellular dermal matrix that is derived from human cadaver skin. AlloDerm is used mainly for breast reconstruction purposes, but has other uses in other fields of surgery. When sutured to the breast pocket, it integrates with the patient’s own tissue. This allows for rapid revascularization, as well as reinforces the soft tissue coverage over the implant.

In breast reconstruction surgery, AlloDerm is usually used to cover the lower pole of a tissue expander in a two-stage breast reconstruction procedure. The tissue expander will then be replaced by a permanent implant once it has been adequately expanded. The AlloDerm is used to cover the lower pole to prevent exposure of the expander or implant after the reconstruction. It also provides good support for the lower pole and may inhibit rippling or developing a capsular contracture with the new implant.

AlloDerm provides many benefits. Besides providing natural soft-tissue support, it also:

–Incorporates rapidly with the recipient’s own tissue

–Allows for rapid revascularization, white cell migration, and repopulation of the acellular dermal matrix

–Supports weak mastectomy flaps

–Helps the surgeon to support and define inframammary and lateral mammary folds

Advantages Of Breast Reconstruction With Alloderm®

breast cancer support group

Many women who have a mastectomy or lumpectomy elect to have a breast reconstruction procedure to restore a feminine figure. Optimal results require adequate skin and tissue in the breast area, but it is not uncommon for patients to have thin skin or minimal tissue. In these cases, Alloderm® acellular dermal matrix (ADM) is often used to secure implant position, encourage tissue growth, and achieve more aesthetic results.

Dr. Lisa Hunsicker is a board-certified plastic surgeon known nationally for her work involving direct-to-implant breast reconstruction. She is passionate about helping patients restore a natural look after a mastectomy or lumpectomy.

What is Alloderm® Made From?

Alloderm® is an ADM used in many plastic surgery procedures, including breast reconstruction. It is derived from donated human cadaver skin, which undergoes a patented process to remove all cells from the tissue. Removing the cells while preserving the structure of the tissue results in a pliable, versatile collagen matrix that the body will not reject.

How Does Alloderm® Work?

Alloderm® functions as a scaffold for new tissue and provides reinforcement, so your new breasts are supported and securely positioned. The tissue is in a dehydrated form until use. During your breast reconstruction, Dr. Hunsicker will shape the ADM to achieve the intended results and rehydrate the tissue. Alloderm® is implanted with absorbable sutures.

Benefits of Alloderm® in Breast Reconstruction

Dr. Hunsicker will do a thorough exam and review of your medical history to determine if Alloderm® can help you achieve your desired outcome. For patients whose soft tissue cannot accommodate breast implants, Alloderm® can have many benefits, including:

  • Natural-looking results – Implants may be visible through thin skin. The extra layer of tissue that Alloderm® provides can mask edges and ripples for a more natural looking result.
  • Improved symmetry – Since Alloderm® is pliable, Dr. Hunsicker can shape it and place it to achieve symmetrical breasts.
  • Prevention of implant migration – Alloderm® can be attached to your chest muscle to help keep the implant in an optimal position.
  • Reduce the risk of capsular contracture – Capsular contracture occurs when scar tissue hardens and contracts around a breast implant. Studies indicate that ADM can lower the risk of capsular contracture.
  • Support for increased fill volume – Whereas thin skin and minimal tissue can limit fill volume, Alloderm® can provide support for heavier breasts.
  • Assists with the growth of new tissue – The ADM consists of tissue building blocks like collagen, elastin, hyaluronic acid, and other components involved with new tissue growth.
  • Low risk of complications – Extensive screening and purification of the tissue prevents the body from rejecting Alloderm®. ADM does not lengthen your recovery or require special care after implantation.

What is Alloderm Breast Reconstruction?

What is Alloderm?

Alloderm, and other similar ADM products including Strattice and FlexHD, are now being used routinely in breast reconstruction. 

ADM stands for “acellular dermal matrix”. It is a biologic mesh-like material derived from animals or donated (cadaveric) human skin. Alloderm is a human product and is the most widely used ADM. It is used in many different types of reconstructive surgery including breast reconstruction.

Before being packaged for use, the Alloderm undergoes a multi-step process that removes all the cells that can lead to tissue rejection: even though it comes from another person, your body does not reject Alloderm because the immune cells are removed. Alloderm essentially acts as a scaffold and over time, the patient’s own cells grow into it.

Since it is a human (cadaveric) product, the U.S. Tissue Bank rigorously screens all tissue donors’ medical records. All donors must be negative for Syphilis, Hepatitis B and C, and HIV 1 and 2. AlloDerm grafts are also examined under the microscope before and after processing to rule out contamination.

ADM is frequently used in implant-based breast reconstruction (and has been for years). The tissue expander or implant is either placed on top or underneath the pectoralis (chest) muscle. The pec muscle cannot cover the entire implant. The ADM is used to cover the lower part of the implant that is not covered by muscle, or as a wrap or drape over the implant when it is placed on top of the muscle (“prepectoral”).

Although ADMs are not FDA approved for use in breast surgery, there are currently studies underway to evaluate the overall benefits and risks of the product.

– Stabilizes the implant in position.
– Allows for complete implant coverage. 
– Decreases capsular contracture (implant hardening).
– Can allow the creation of a full-sized breast when the tissue expander/implant reconstruction is performed at the same time as the mastectomy.
– Once incorporated by the body, resists infection as well as the patient’s “natural” tissue.

– Like anything that is implanted in the body, there is an initial (low) risk of infection (until it becomes incorporated).
– Alloderm can cause temporary redness in the skin (“red breast syndrome”).
– Costly but usually covered by insurance.

Many plastic surgeons, including myself, use an ADM routinely when performing breast reconstruction with tissue expanders and implants.

What Is Alloderm Used For

 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.

Alloderm Side Effects

Side effects associated with AlloDerm products include severe systemic infections, abscesses and repeat surgical procedures to correct issues arising from AlloDerm.

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