Plastic surgeons are artists and innovators. The meticulous care and skill they use to reshape a woman after breast cancer is unsurpassed. Today patients can get a desirable aesthetic outcome without sacrificing their cancer treatment. Whether a woman chooses delayed or immediate reconstruction with a tissue expander or her own tissue, the outcomes are truly works of art.
Scott Dodson shared about insurance coverage and the major effort to make women aware of their rights and options. In light of that, I felt it would be important to share one of the newest options and innovations in breast reconstruction.
I need to put one important disclaimer here, though. You should always consult with your surgeon to get the right medical guidance for your situation.
The Traditional Tissue Expander
Today the majority of breast reconstructions are immediate using a tissue expander. That means they happen the same day as the mastectomy. Many are also bilateral, where a woman chooses to remove both breasts to ensure symmetry or reduce the likelihood of new breast cancers.
Tissue expansion has been the industry standard for years. Using a tissue expander, the surgeon creates space for the final implant. In the past 40 years there had been no real innovations in regards to the tissue expander device. It has remained an empty silicon bag, which the surgeon implants. The surgeon then needs to fill it weekly. Every week the surgeon uses a needle through the breast to push 50-100cc of water into it. This form of tissue expansion is a lengthy (~6 months), uncomfortable, and inconvenient process, with a need for weekly visits to the physician to get expanded.
A New Tissue Expander
Today there is a new option coming to the US soon. This new tissue expander takes away the needle injections. It reduces the physician’s office visits. It may even remove the pain and discomfort of tissue expansion.
AeroForm, manufactured by AirXpanders, is a product currently approved in Australia and Europe. AeroForm is a unique tissue expander. It is needle free and allows a patient to expand from the comfort of home or work using a wireless device. AeroForm is not yet available in the United States. However, it is going through review by the FDA and will hopefully be approved soon.
This past month, I attended the Texas Society of Plastic Surgeons conference in San Antonio. While there, I discussed AeroForm with several Reconstructive Surgeons. The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.
Surgeons from around the country are lining up to be among the first to use AeroForm once approval is received from the FDA.
Nurses and patient coordinators also see the AeroForm as a breakthrough. It will empower women to become a more active participant in the healing process. They say, the convenience of controlled self-dosing and not having to schedule weekly physician visits is a game changer.
Perosnally, I have witnessed first-hand the anguish of loved ones experiencing breast cancer and the rigors of breast reconstruction. As a husband and father of three girls, I am grateful for the brilliant minds that innovate with the goal to make patients’ lives better.
The AeroForm is, of course, only one breast reconstruction option. There are many other breast reconstruction options, which may fit your situation best. That’s why it’s important to talk to your plastic surgeon about your options. Be informed, know your rights, and choose the right path for you.
By Anthony Carnemolla