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The advent of self-inflating hydrogel tissue expanders heralded a significant advance in the reconstructive techniques available for the surgical restoration of a wide variety of soft tissue defects. However, their use in specific applications such as cleft palate surgery is limited on account of their isotropic expansion. An anisotropic self-inflating hydrogel tissue expander has been developed which markedly increases the potential indications for which this restorative tool may be employed. These include complex pediatric soft tissue reconstructions of the palate, nose, ear and digits. Anisotropic expansion in a hydrogel polymer network composed of methyl methacrylate and vinylpyrrolidone has been achieved by annealing the xerogel under a compressive load for a specified time period. By controlling the anisotropic processing conditions and composition we have been able to accurately tailor the ultimate expansion ratio up to 1500%. The expansion rate of the xerogel has also been significantly reduced by encapsulating the polymer within a semi-permeable silicone membrane. The structure and properties of the novel anisotropic hydrogel were characterized by attenuated total reflectance infrared spectroscopy, differential scanning calorimetry, thermogravimetric analysis and small-angle neutron scattering.

Original publication




Journal article


Acta Biomater

Publication Date





1126 - 1132


Humans, Hydrogels, Tissue Expansion Devices