To describe the novel use of an external tissue expander in the reconstruction of scalp and forehead defects.
A prospective review was performed on 7 patients who underwent extirpation of head and neck malignant neoplasms resulting in scalp and forehead defects. Reconstruction was performed using an external tissue expander device. Patient clinical factors, defect size, and photographs were collected.
Seven patients had large scalp and forehead defects ranging in greatest dimension from 5.0 ×4.0 to 8.0 ×7.0 cm. The external tissue expander was in place for 6 to 14 days, reducing the defect sizes by 50% to 99%. At the time of device removal, primary closure was achieved in 5 patients. One patient required bilateral advancement rotation flaps, and 1 patient healed by second intention. One patient with a history of scalp irradiation and diabetes had partial skin loss after device removal and required reconstruction with a latissimus dorsi myocutaneous free flap. There were no other postoperative complications, wound breakdown, or device failures.
External tissue expansion is a safe and effective technique for closing large scalp and forehead defects that would otherwise require skin grafting or free flap reconstruction.