Breast reconstruction surgery often requires the expansion of the breast muscle and skin using a medical device called a tissue expander. The expander resides in the chest cavity of the patient and is used to expand and stretch the skin and muscle to make enough room for an implant.
In order to stretch the skin and muscle, a nurse practitioner will inject a salt-water solution through the skin and into the expander so that it gradually fills over a few weeks or months. After the skin has been stretched enough, the expander is removed, and the permanent implant is placed.
This was the way breast reconstructive surgery was performed for many years. Women had no choice but to endure the needle pricks into their breast cavity every few weeks. Recently, a new medical device came onto the market that enables the patient to control the expansion process via remote control as well as eliminate the need for needle injections.
The AeroForm Tissue Expander
The AeroForm Tissue Expander was recently approved by the FDA as a replacement for tissue expansion via saline injections. The device resembles the shape of an implant. It contains a CO2 cartridge and a receiver that receives instructions from a remote control. Surgeons will place the AeroForm Tissue Expander into the chest cavity underneath the skin and chest muscle.
After the initial surgery, the patient will be given a small hand-held device that resembles a remote control. On it is a single button. When it comes time to expand the tissue, the patient will press the button on the remote control which will send a wireless signal to the expander inside their chest cavity. The cartridge inside will release a small burst of CO2 which will inflate the implant to a predetermined size. The entire process can be done by the patient in the comfort of their own home and does not require a physical visit to the doctor’s office.
The AeroForm is a great option for those patients who don’t live near their doctors. It should be noted that the doctor will want to see the patient from time to time to ensure that the process is going smoothly, and everything is in order.
AeroForm Vs. Saline
There are several key differences between AeroForm and saline. While individual cases may vary somewhat, the average time that it takes for the AeroForm to work is much less than the saline injections. On average, it can take weeks for the AeroForm to do its job vs. months if the patient received saline injections instead.
The expansion is done by the patient via a hand-held remote control for AeroForm versus needle injections done by the doctor’s office. There are many patients who have to fly to a different state to visit their doctor. This can significantly cut down on the cost of travel as well as the inconvenience.
The main benefit of the AeroForm system is that no needles are involved. For many breast reconstruction patients, they have had to accept the fact that they will have to return to the doctor’s office over the course of several months and have a nurse practitioner or doctor inject their breast with a needle. They now have a choice to forgo the injections and multiple office visits.
There is also a slight medical benefit as well. Anytime you introduce foreign object through the skin into an expander (the needle) there are risks of deflation, infection, and complications which would require the reconstruction to begin all over again. Because the AeroForm system does not require any injections of saline into the expanders following their initial placement, that lowers the risk of complications.
Another benefit is that the Aeroform expander has been expertly pre-programmed prior to being inserted into the patient. This removes room for human error that could potentially occur when the patient is being given a saline injection with the needle.
Finally, being able to forgo the office visit every few weeks is another benefit that many women find appealing. Being able to expand via a remote control inside their house is preferred to going through the hassle of making their way down to the doctor’s office.
A slight downside is that with the injections, surgeons can look at the overall situation, adjust the hypothesized amounts of saline if need be – and most importantly, make sure everything is ok. If patients start using the Aeroform device, it would require less visits to the surgeon’s office and that could have negative impacts in cases where complications might arise.
Breast Reconstructive Surgery in Dallas
If you’re considering breast reconstructive surgery and would like to learn more about the AeroForm Tissue Expander, give the offices of Dr. Adams a call at (214) 965-9885. Dr. Adams is a board certified plastic surgeon who is experienced in reconstructive breast surgery. During your consultation, he will sit down with you and go over your options and answer any questions you might have.