Postoperative expansion is not a primary cause of infection in immediate breast reconstruction with tissue expanders

Tomer Avraham, Katie E. Weichman, Stelios Wilson, Andrew Weinstein, Nicholas T. Haddock, Caroline Szpalski, Mihye Choi, Nolan S. Karp

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Perioperative infection is the most common and dreaded complication associated with tissue expander (TE) breast reconstruction. Historically, the expansion period was thought to be the time of greatest hazard to the implant. However, recent institutional observations suggest infectious complications occur prior to expansion. This investigation, therefore, was conducted to determine the timing of infectious complications associated with two-stage TE breast reconstructions. Following IRB approval, a retrospective review of all consecutive two-stage immediate TE breast reconstructions at a single institution from November 2007 to November 2011 was conducted. Reconstructions were then divided into two cohorts: those suffering infectious complications and those that did not. Infectious complications including minor cellulitis, major cellulitis, abscess drainage, and explantation were identified. Various operative and patient variables were evaluated in comparison. Eight hundred ninety immediate two-stage TE breast reconstructions met inclusion criteria. Patients suffering infection were older (55.4 years versus 49.3 years; p < 0.001), and more likely to have therapeutic mastectomy (94% versus 61%; p < 0.0001), the use of acellular dermal matrix (ADM; 72.5% versus 54.9%; p = 0.001), and greater initial TE fill (448.6 mL versus 404.7 mL; p = 0.0078). The average time to developing of infectious symptoms was 29.6 days (range 9-142 days), with 94.6% (n = 87) of infections prior to the start of expansion. Perioperative infections in immediate two-stage TE to implant breast reconstructions are significant and occur mostly prior to the start of expansion. Thus, challenging the conventional wisdom that instrumentation during expander filling as the primary cause of implant infections. Possible etiologic factors include greater age, therapeutic mastectomy versus prophylactic mastectomy, larger initial TE fill, and the use of ADM.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)501-507
Number of pages7
JournalBreast Journal
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 1 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • breast cancer
  • breast reconstruction
  • tissue expander

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine
  • Surgery
  • Oncology


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