When a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer, there are many decisions to be made about treatment. Women who elect to undergo a total mastectomy usually opt for reconstruction of the breast and this often involves tissue expanders. In order to reconstruct a breast, implants have to be placed in a muscle pocket in the chest wall. Since skin is lost in a mastectomy, the implants have to be filled, over time, with saline so the skin expands. This can be very painful for the woman. A new technology aims to speed up this process, without the use of needles and saline injections.
The device is called AeroForm and instead of saline, it releases 10 cubic centimeters of carbon dioxide at a time, to gradually expand the implant and tissue. The process is non-invasive and gives women much more control over their care. The process of tissue expansion hasn't changed much in almost 50 years, so the clinical trials at New York's Presbyterian Hospital are welcome news to many. Saline injections could take about 45 days to be complete, but the Aeroform patients had full expansion in only 21 days time.