An apparatus and method for forming and enlarging percutaneous penetrations comprises an elongate dilation member which receives an elongate expansion member in an axial lumen thereof. The dilation tube includes a tubular braid which usually comprises a mesh of non-elastic filaments which are radially expandable from a small diameter configuration to a large diameter configuration and which is optionally covered by a removable sheath. The dilation tube is percutaneously introduced to a target site within a patient's body, usually within the abdomen in a laparoscopic procedure. The sheath (if present) is then removed, and the tubular braid thereafter radially expanded by axial insertion of the expansion member through its lumen. The tubular braid is anchored by axial shortening of the mesh and remains in place to permit subsequent exchange of dilation members to provide for different diameter access lumens. Trocar valves may be removably attached to the proximal end of the expansion member to permit the apparatus to be used as a trocar system in laparoscopic procedures where the patient's abdomen has been insufflated. An anchoring element may optionally be provided at the distal end of the expansion member.