Wireless Tissue Expanders Could Improve Breast Reconstruction Process

A new remote control system aims to improve tissue expansion for breast reconstruction.

white balloonsTtissue expansion enables your body to grow extra skin in breast reconstruction. Until recently, the standard tissue expansion procedure was limited to injections with a silicone balloon expander, which is inserted beneath the skin and gradually filled with saline over a 4-6 month period.

This gradual process causes the skin to stretch and preparing the breast for permanent implant.

A new “AeroForm patient-controlled tissue expander” is designed to give patients wireless control of tissue expansion through carbon dioxide inflation. “[It] has a needle-free design and anatomical shape, is lightweight, is expanded at home by the patient, is dosed according to comfort….and is easy to use,” said Tony Connell, MD, a principal investigator in clinical trials.

After being implanted, the small and anatomically shaped expander device is activated the first few times by the surgeon during the early healing phase. Then the patient takes over the job, using a remote-control device to send signals to the expander to release small amounts of compressed carbon-dioxide.

Manufactured by AirXpanders, Inc. of Palo Alto, California, the AeroForm has been through successful clinical trials in Australia, with results confirmed in a larger trial in the United States. Not only were expansion and reconstruction achieved nearly every patient, but both the women and their physicians expressed 100 percent satisfaction with the device. In the US trial, the average expansion time was 17 days with the PCE vs. 52 days with the saline expander, while time to final implant was 106 days vs. 150 days with the saline device.

Last October, AirXpanders received the European CE mark of approval, which enables the company to commercialize the system in Europe and other select markets around the world. Additional confirming trials are still underway in the US.

Photo: Releasing balloons by joebeone on Flickr