Stretching skin: Undermining is more important than intraoperative expansion

Donald Mackay, Gregory C. Saggers, Neville Kotwal, Ernest K. Manders

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79 Scopus citations


The efficacy of intraoperative expansion in reducing the tension of wound closure was tested in young pigs. The young piglet as a model for studying human skin was characterized by finding a close similarity between the modulus of elastiticy of young piglet skin and human abdominoplasty and mammaplasty skin (range 12.8 to 23.7 N/mm2 for piglet skin, 14.3 to 19 N/mm2 for human skin). The tension required to close a standardized wound was determined before undermining, after undermining, and finally after intraoperative expansion. These measurements were performed in 10 young pigs with an average weight of 11.5 kg. Undermining the wound edges resulted in a significant decrease in the force required to close the wounds (p < 0.0001). Intraoperative expansion did not significantly decrease the tension. Previous work showing the importance of site and direction of pull on the tension for wound closure was confirmed in this study. Analysis of variance demonstrated that the tension required to close a standard wound is greater high on the pig’s back than near the belly and near the shoulder as opposed to the hip for midflank wounds (p < 0.0001). Increasing the extent of undermining from 62 to 136 cm2 significantly decreased the tension for wound closure (p < 0.05). Further undermining did not result in a significant decrease in wound closure tension. In this model, intraoperative expansion offers no advantage over simple undermining. We suggest that the benefit reported by clinicians using intraoperative expansion may derive from an increase in the extent of undermining required to place expanders under the wound margins.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)722-730
Number of pages9
JournalPlastic and reconstructive surgery
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1990

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Surgery


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