Abstract From April 1985 to March 1987, 50 women had 56 mastectomies for documented cancer. A tissue expander was used for immediate reconstruction in each case. The patient records were used to determine morbidity and mortality, as well as to examine the effect of reconstruction on adjuvant therapy, cancer surveillance, adequacy of cancer surgery and patient satisfaction. The patients were followed up for an average of 13 months. Fifty-two of 56 expanders were successfully replaced with a permanent prosthesis. Forty-seven women remain alive. Local or regional recurrence did not occur in any women within the study period. Complications, of which superficial skin necrosis was most common, occurred in 35% of reconstructions and were investigated critically. Patient satisfaction was high. Dissatisfaction was not related to the incidence of complications but rather appeared to reflect the success of the patient's cancer treatment.