NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – An important development for the thousands of women who need breast reconstruction each year.
CBS2’s Dr. Max Gomez reports that an inflatable skin or tissue expander that operates by remote control has been created by specialists.
“My mother had breast cancer, her two sisters had breast cancer,” breast reconstruction patient Michelle Accardi said.
With that family history, Accardi’s doctor suggested a test for breast cancer genes. It came back positive.
“When am I gonna wake up and find out I have breast cancer? I’m a working mom, have twin five-year-olds at home, I decided my best option was to have a double mastectomy,” she explained.
Accardi wanted breast reconstruction, but after the mastectomy there’s often not enough skin to create a new breast all at once.
Surgeons will insert a tissue expander that requires a weekly trip to the doctor’s office to inject saline. It will gradually stretch the skin and muscle until it’s large enough to remove the expander and replace it with an implant – an inconvenient and uncomfortable process.
“Each time you have to fill the expander it can feel pretty tight,” Dr. Ron Israeli of New York Breast Reconstruction Associates said.
An ingenious, needle-free way, to deal with this is called Aeroform. It uses a remote control to release air from a tiny embedded capsule to enlarge the expander.
Aeroform has a built in safeguard so it can’t inflate more than three times a day. It’s more comfortable and the cumulative effect actually shortens the time needed to expand the skin.
“Instead of eight to ten weeks, it might only be ten weeks,” Dr. Israeli added.
For Michelle Accardi, the big advantage is convenience.
“I was in my own home. On my own time, no doctor visits,” Accardi said.
Michelle had her final reconstruction done just two months after her mastectomies. For women who opt for reconstruction using implants – the most common method – nearly all of them could use the air expanders instead of the saline injections
In most cases, Aeroform is covered by insurance.