DOI: 10.1097/prs.0000000000011401 ISSN: 0032-1052

Cervicofacial Pediatric Tissue Expansion: Aesthetic Unit-Based Algorithm

Christopher D. Lopez, Cynthia T. Yusuf, Alisa O. Girard, Alexander K. Karius, Robin Yang, Howard Wang, Richard J. Redett
  • Surgery


Tissue expansion is a powerful tool for reconstruction of pediatric soft-tissue pathologies, but complication rates for children have been reported as high as 40%. Infection and implant extrusion lead to premature removal and delays in reconstruction. Expanding the head and neck is uniquely challenging because the confluence of facial aesthetic units must be respected. These challenges have prompted the senior author’s creation of an aesthetic-unit based algorithm.


A retrospective study of pediatric patients who underwent cervicofacial tissue expander placement by the senior author (R.J.R) was performed over a 17-year period. Predictor variables included age, sex, race, indication, number of expanders placed at each operation, serial expansion, expander type, expander size, home versus clinic inflation, and prophylactic antibiotics. Univariate and multivariate analyses were performed to identify risk factors for complications.


An aesthetic-unit based reconstructive algorithm is proposed. Forty-eight pediatric patients had 111 cervicofacial tissue expanders placed. Twenty expanders were associated with complications (18%) for surgical site-infection (12.6%), extrusion (4.5%), and expander deflation (6.3%). Expanders placed for congenital nevi (p=0.042) and use of textured expander (p=0.027) were significantly associated with decreased complications. When controlling for covariates, serial expansion of the same site was associated with increased rates of readmission (p=0.027) after having just one prior expander. Iatrogenic ectropion occurred in 13.5% of the study population; expanders with at least one complication during tissue expansion were significantly associated with incidence of iatrogenic ectropion (p=0.026).


By using an aesthetic-unit based algorithm, reconstructive outcomes can be optimized for pediatric cervicofacial tissue expansion.

More from our Archive