Device may let women help with breast reconstruction
This might be the ultimate do-it-yourself project: Doctors are testing a device that would let women do part of their own breast reconstruction at home.
It’s aimed at not only making treatment more comfortable and convenient, but also giving women a sense of control — something cancer often takes away.
More than 100,000 women each year in the United States have surgery to remove a cancerous breast, and many of them choose reconstruction with an implant. To make room for a permanent one, many of them get a tissue expander, a temporary pouch that is gradually enlarged with saline to stretch the remaining skin and muscle.
While biking home one day, Dr. Daniel Jacobs, a Kaiser Permanente plastic surgeon in San Jose, California, had an idea: Why couldn’t a tiny can of compressed gas, like the one he carries to fix a flat tire, be used to let women inflate their own tissue expanders, a little each day so there is less stretching at a time and less pain?
He helped found a company — AirXpanders Inc. of Palo Alto, California — to develop the device, called AeroForm. It’s sold in Australia, approved in Europe and under review by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
It requires no special training — just a palm-sized remote control that activates a tiny cartridge inside the pouch to pump gas.
In a company-sponsored study of 150 women, AeroForm patients finished tissue expansion in half the time and were able to get implants a month sooner than others who had the usual saline treatments, said the study leader, Dr. Jeffrey Ascherman, a plastic surgeon at New York-Presbyterian/Columbia Medical Center in New York.