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New Technology On The Horizon For Breast Reconstruction

When a woman loses one or both breasts to a mastectomy, she experiences trauma on several levels, not the least of which is the dramatic change in her physical appearance. Some breast cancer survivors elect to have reconstruction surgery once medically stable and cleared by oncologists. However, breast reconstruction is not as simple for cancer survivors as having breast augmentation because removal of breast tissue and surrounding lymphatic tissue distorts the chest. It is not as easy as having a consult, working with implant sizers, and selecting the type and size of the implant. There is usually a process that precedes breast reconstruction surgery. For example, plastic surgeons must sometimes create space in the patient’s chest wall before an implant may be placed. Presently, this process requires pre-surgical visits to the surgeon’s office to be treated with an expansive device and/or a series of saline injections to gradually create the required space. New technology under investigation at Columbia University Medical Center may change the way cancer survivors prepare for reconstructive surgery. One New York woman received an “at-home” expansion device designed to create space in the chest wall. This is a small device implanted under the skin that contains compressed carbon dioxide. By using a small, discrete remote control, the patient is able to give herself several small doses each day that expand the tissue and muscle. This is potentially beneficial to breast cancer survivors because they can obtain the necessary treatment in the privacy of their own home, and reduce the number of trips to the plastic surgeon’s office. This technology is called AirExpander. Presently clinical trials are underway, but researchers forecast that the device may receive FDA clearance by the end of 2012. The Eisemann Plastic Surgery Center has a long history of working with breast cancer survivors. Dr. Eisemann and his staff are extremely empathetic to these patients, and strive to do all in their power to make breast reconstruction as positive an experience as possible. Rest assured that Dr. Eisemann stays on top of medical advances such as this one to determine what new, innovative techniques actually work well and are in the patient’s best interest.

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