Australian women are among the first in the world to be offered a revolutionary method of breast reconstruction. Breast implants have been around for over 50 years and they are the most common method of breast reconstruction following a mastectomy. However, for many women implant reconstruction can be a painful and drawn out process, so news of an innovative technology which promises an improved reconstruction experience by providing a needle-free, faster expansion process is a welcome step forward.
Reclaim Your Curves spoke with Scott Dodson the CEO of AirXpanders and with Dr Fred Clarke and his patient Alison, who are keen to use this device.
AirXpanders, a company based in San Francisco, has developed a device called the AeroForm, which is the world’s only needle-free, patient controlled tissue expansion system. Traditionally, implant reconstruction involves placing a saline tissue expander under the skin and chest muscle following a mastectomy and during a series of visits (which typically occur over 4-5 months), the surgeon uses a needle to inject a saline solution into the expander to help stretch the muscle and skin to the desired size before a permanent implant is placed under the skin.
The Aeroform is a temporary implant filled with carbon dioxide. Like traditional expanders it is placed under the skin following a mastectomy. However, instead of injections to stretch out a pocket of skin where the permanent implant will be placed, patients use a wireless remote control, held over the breast area to slowly inflate the temporary implant with controlled daily doses given over the course of a few weeks. The device does not use any needles and patients are able to complete the expansion process in their own homes, and at their own pace, rather than having to attend weekly surgery visits. Being able to gradually inflate the expander provides women with a more comfortable experience that achieves quicker results and gives them a greater sense of control.
Perhaps most excitingly, for women in rural and remote areas unable to regularly attend surgeon’s offices, this technology offers improved access to reconstruction. At present, only around 10% of Australian women pursue reconstruction following a mastectomy. For rural and remote women just 2% have reconstructions, with distance from surgical rooms and hospitals for regular expansion appointments being a major barrier.
Dr Fred Clarke, a plastic and reconstructive surgeon who works at both St Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney and Gosford Hospital on the Central Coast, as well as in private practise, believes;
“Aeroform offers a number of advantages over the traditional method of implant reconstruction such as greater patient control of the process, quicker expansion rates and a reduced risk of infection, as no needles are used. These benefits are likely to appeal to more women seeking reconstruction and this technique is particularly attractive for those women from country areas, as they have far fewer doctors’ visits to attend”.
Dr Clarke also believes the technology is a boon for surgeons as the process of placing the Aeroform is the same as the traditional method.
For Dr Clarke’s patient, Alison Madden, who is due to have implant reconstruction at the end of August, using AirXpanders makes a lot of sense:
“I had thoroughly researched my reconstruction options and had spoken to a number of surgeons as well as women who had undergone the various procedures available, but it wasn’t until I heard about AirXpanders that I felt that this was the option for me. It seems much less invasive and a much quicker option and I like the fact that I can control the process.”
Although invented in America, the AeroForm device was first used by Plastic Surgeon Dr Tony Connell at the Mount Hospital in Perth. Dr Connell led the clinical trials into AeroForm, and his findings that patients using the device were able to complete their expansion in just 17 days on average was instrumental in the Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) recently approving AeroForm for use in Australia.
Scott Dodson, President and CEO of AirXpanders, explains that the availability of this technology improves the choices for those women seeking reconstruction following a mastectomy and states that:
“The option to reconstruct should be seen as a part of the treatment continuum for breast cancer. AirXpanders is committed to informing and educating Australian women about their reconstruction choices and we are working to make this technology available as soon as possible in all States and Territories.”
Currently, more than 350 patients in Australia are using the device and it is hoped that now it attracts a government rebate, many more women will get access to it. For those women facing the devastating prospect of mastectomy and reconstruction this new technology offers an exciting and empowering solution to reclaiming their curves.
By Jane Goodwin-Moore, Publicity and Consumer Information, Reclaim Your Curves Ltd.
To find information and support about this and other breast reconstruction techniques go to www.reclaimyourcurves.org.au
Visit AirXpanders at www.airxpanders.com