AUSTRALIAN women recovering from breast cancer surgery now have access to air expanders they can inflate on their own, preventing painful injections and doctor’s visits and reducing the time between their mastectomy and reconstruction.
The air expander is filled with carbon dioxide, instead of saline, allowing women to blow their own implants up using a handheld remote.
More than 350 patients have the device implanted and it is hoped that now it attracts a government rebate, more women will get access to it.
Dr Hamish Farrow, a plastic and reconstructive surgeon who works at the Austin Hospital and in private practice, said reconstructing the breast was a two-step process that used tissue expanders before the permanent implants were put in.
Currently, patients predominantly have saline expanders inserted, which need to be injected over a period of months.
“The real advantage of an air expander is that you don’t have the pain of the needle or the necessity of doctor’s visits,” Dr Farrow said.
To stop the AeroForm tissue expander being over-inflated, it has a daily air limit that cannot be exceeded.
Although the device would be suitable for only around a third of his patients, Dr Farrow said it could prove advantageous for those living in rural or remote areas.
A study, published in the Annals of Plastic Surgery, found the tissue expander had the potential to make the expansion process faster and more convenient.
Victorian Bonny Chisholm was diagnosed with breast cancer last year after undergoing her first free mammogram.
“I breastfed my twins for 18 months, had no family history of breast cancer and I was fit, healthy and had a good diet,” she said.
But, despite also having no lump nor side-effects, the cancer had spread outside her milk ducts and she required surgery.
She had the AeroForm device inserted, which she would inflate using a remote control three times a day.
“I liked the fact that I could do it at home without having to go in for medical appointments to have the saline injected,” she said.
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