- Alloderm is a brand of acellular dermal matrix (ADM) that is commonly used in breast reconstruction procedures.
- ADMs are pliable, versatile sheets of dehydrated tissue from which the cells have been removed.
- Acellular dermal matrix acts like a scaffolding and provides extra support during breast reconstructive surgery.
What is an acellular dermal matrix? The most common place that an acellular dermal matrix (ADM) is used is in breast reconstruction. And the most common type or brand of ADM is Alloderm. Other brands that are used include Cortiva, DermACELL, and FlexHD. These are all different types of acellular dermal matrices.
An ADM is a dehydrated sheet of sterile tissue obtained from donated cadaver skin. In other words, it is skin from an organ donor that has been processed to get rid of all the cells. There’s nothing living remaining in it. There are no cells left behind (that’s why it’s called an “acellular” dermal matrix). It is just the scaffold that’s left behind after the cells are removed. We use this scaffold to help reconstruct your breast.
Alloderm is the dermal portion of the skin without cells. It does a great job serving as a scaffold or a mesh, so to speak, to support the tissue expander or implant inside the mastectomy pocket. Because once the breast is removed, it is essentially a giant, empty hole inside your breast. Meaning all that’s left is skin and nothing else. We need to reconstruct that space. And if we’re doing it with an implant or a tissue expander, we need a dermal matrix (scaffold) to help maintain the position of the expander or implant.
Alloderm helps support the weight of the permanent implant. It also helps create a smoother, more natural-looking contour of the reconstructed breast. If it’s a tissue expander we’re using, the acellular dermal matrix helps maintain the position of the future implant once the expander is removed. You can think of it as an internal bra that keeps the implant in place and helps preserve the borders and folds of the natural breast. During reconstructive surgery, I rehydrate a sheet of Alloderm and shape it using absorbable sutures. Alloderm can also help mask any edges and ripples that can potentially be visible in patients with thin, delicate skin.
That’s what an acellular dermal matrix is – when you hear people talking about ADMs and Alloderm. It’s a biologic device or biologic implant that we use when we perform breast reconstruction. Over time, your body grows into the scaffold and sort of makes it your own. Think of it like the scaffolding of a house, and your body just grows into that scaffold. It helps provide strength and support to your soft tissue. We call it soft tissue reinforcement. This is essentially what an acellular dermal matrix like Alloderm does.
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