Q. I recently had a mastectomy and had a tissue expander placed in my chest so that I could have reconstructive surgery. My surgeon said that he used Alloderm when he put the tissue expander in so that it would support my skin and it would make it easier to get a better result. My question: What is Alloderm and is it safe?
Alloderm is a collagen matrix that does not have live cells. Cadaver skin is harvested and treated in such a way as to remove all live cells. This collagen matrix forms a support system in which your own cells and blood vessels fill in the area, making it stronger for reconstructive surgery.
Alloderm may also be used when a “breast bottoms out” and the surgeon needs some support in the bottom of the breast so that the implant does not come out. There are many other uses of Alloderm throughout the body; it is a safe, effective treatment.
It is interesting to note that because someone allowed their skin to be harvested, other patients benefitted from it. There are many other tissues that are used for the benefit of patients that are donated by organ donors.
Donors save people’s vision, improve the results of orthopedic and neuro-surgery and many other surgeries that help improve the quality of human life.
On a recent trip to visit my daughter, who is a surgical-trauma intensive care nurse at the University of Virginia, she made me aware of the need to become an organ donor. She often deals with patients who have essentially died but have a lot to give to other patients if they had been organ donors.
Therefore, I’m encouraging and challenging everyone who reads my column to become an organ donor. Go to www.organdonor.gov and sign up. It is very easy to become an organ donor. A body is a terrible thing to waste.