What is Alloderm Breast Reconstruction?
By: Dr. Minas Chrysopoulo
Alloderm is now being used routinely in breast reconstruction. Here’s what you need to know…
First off, what is it? AlloDerm is derived from donated (cadaveric) human skin. It is FDA approved and 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.
Alloderm is frequently used in implant-based breast reconstruction (and has been for years). The tissue expander or implant is placed under the pectoralis (chest) muscle. The more tissue coverage over the implant, the better the results. Unfortunately, the pec muscle cannot cover the entire implant. The Alloderm is used to cover the lower part of the implant that is not covered by muscle.
- Stabilizes the implant in position.
- Allows for complete implant coverage.
- Can allow the creation of a full-sized breast when the tissue expander/implant reconstruction is performed at the same time as the mastectomy.
- No risk of rejection.
- 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).
- Can cause temporary redness in the skin over the Alloderm (“red breast syndrome”).
- Costly but usually covered by insurance.
Many plastic surgeons, including myself, use Alloderm routinely when performing breast reconstruction with tissue expanders and implants.