Objectives. To report the first significant experience with the use of tissue expanders in phallic reconstruction. Patients who have undergone multiple failed surgical procedures for repair of hypospadias or epispadias often have minimal residual skin available for additional reconstructive efforts. Although a variety of graft options exist, local skin expansion can provide pigment and texture-matched skin for reconstructive procedures. Methods. We reviewed our experience with tissue expansion in patients after multiple failed phallic reconstructive efforts. A total of 18 males (mean age 13.2 years) with an underlying diagnosis of exstrophy/epispadias (n = 9), hypospadias (n = 7), partial androgen insensitivity syndrome (n = 1), and congenital adrenal hyperplasia (n = 1) had penile tissue expanders placed and inflated during a 6-week period. The expanders were removed at penile reconstruction. Results. Tissue expanders were placed in 18 patients and successfully inflated in 17 patients. Good surgical results requiring no additional procedures were obtained in 8 (47%) of the 17 patients. Two patients subsequently underwent repeated tissue expansion; one of these patients had a good outcome after two expansions and supplemental pedicle graft, and the other had persistent fistulas and required a forearm graft. The implants were replaced because of extrusion in 3 patients and removed for malfunction, erosion, or infection in 1 patient each. Conclusions. The use of tissue expansion provides a useful option for reconstruction in patients with minimal or scarred skin after multiple failed prior phallic reconstructions and offers certain benefits over the transfer of free grafts. The availability of smaller tissue expanders makes this technique feasible even for young children.
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