AirXpanders Replacing the Gummy Bears?
Patient Controlled Tissue Expanders – the Next Gen of Breast Reconstruction!
by Jean Criss, Contributing Writer and Designer/Founder of the CRISSCROSS™ collection.
Wouldn’t you like to have a hand in the healing process? That is what this product provides you – the ability to decide when to inflate your breast expander with your doctor’s supervision, how fast and large would you like to achieve full breast expansion, would you like to be ensured you are comfortable with the desired cup size each step of the way with less frequent doctor visits, how about utilizing a remote control device to administer size expansion rather than conforming to uncomfortable needless or endless reconstructive surgeries or other contraptions, administering it after chemo – no rush for full reconstructive surgery immediately following breast surgery – providing you time to heal mentally and physically, and the list goes on.
AirXpanders are tissue expanders that are used to expand the muscle and skin to create a pocket for a permanent implant. The Gummy Bears (high cohesive gel implants) are a type of permanent implants that are used for augmentations AND reconstruction surgery. AeroForm does not replace Gummy Bears, but it creates a space for them or any other implant that the patient and her surgeon choose.
Above: AeroForm® is a needle-free, wireless tissue expander system for patients who choose to have reconstructive surgery following a mastectomy. photo supplied by AirXpander.
“AeroForm® has the potential to significantly improve the experience of women as they take control of their tissue expansion following a mastectomy.”
AeroForm® is a needle-free, wireless tissue expander system for patients who choose to have reconstructive surgery following a mastectomy. Using a wireless dose controller, the patient independently inflates the expander in the comfort of her own home. AeroForm® uses the controlled delivery of small amounts of gas (CO2) through an internal valve. The physician places a small amount of volume in the device during the surgery. Once the surgical incisions have healed, the patient then controls the expansion process through the use of the wireless dose controller at home. “AirXpanders is a publically listed company on the Australian Stock Exchange and AeroForm is currently commercially available in Australia. In the U.S, we have submitted a 510(k) notification to the FDA and look forward to offering full commercial availability of AeroForm to U.S. breast cancer patients in the near future,” states Scott Dodson, CEO of AirXpanders. AirXpanders, the Palo Alto, CA based company makes AeroForm and reports that the study results and their application are currently under review by the FDA.
With the push of a button, the prescribed amount of CO2 is delivered to the expander quickly and comfortably, allowing the patient to continue with her daily activities. The AeroForm® Tissue Expander System offers a new choice for women and physicians and can take as little as a few weeks to achieve full expansion.
Above: Photo supplied by AirXpander.
Following a mastectomy, the AeroForm® tissue expander is placed underneath the chest muscle and they proclaim to be the best innovation in tissue expansion in 50 years. It is placed behind the chest muscle similarly to traditional saline-filled expanders, but rather than expanding via painful injections of saline solution, the AeroForm uses a gradual patient-controlled release of compressed gas. The end goal is to stretch the tissue of the chest wall to make room for a permanent breast implant. The device uses carbon dioxide (CO₂) to fill the expander, which is compressed within a reservoir in the device. Using a hand-held, wireless dose controller, patients and physicians can release 10cc of CO2, up to 3x per day, to gradually inflate the expander. This can be done from any location, such as home or work, and only takes a few seconds.
AeroForm® has the potential to significantly improve the experience of women as they take control of their tissue expansion following a mastectomy. Expansion is faster – around 17 days with AeroForm, as compared to 4-6 months for traditional expanders, and the process is more empowering for patients, who expand at their own pace in the comfort of their own home.
Implants After Radiation. The trade-offs and who this product is really intended for — women with less aggressive or smaller breast cancer tumors often elect for a breast-sparing lumpectomy instead of a mastectomy. For many of these women, this option allows them to keep their breast while dealing with the roller coaster of breast cancer.
Unfortunately, plastic surgeons face a challenge when a woman who has undergone radiation later has the cancer return and requires a full mastectomy. If this woman chooses reconstruction, it is generally recommended that she receive autologous breast reconstruction. Radiation changes both the skin and muscle quality of the treated breast, making fitting an implant a challenge. The problem is some women are not candidates for autologous breast reconstruction.
Above: AirXpanders, in addition to participating in Breast Cancer Awareness events throughout the month, will be running their own awareness contest on Facebook called, Share the Love.
While these results may be in part due to a particularly skilled plastic surgeon, more studies are needed to assess whether with current medical advances, implants may be an increasingly valid option for women who’ve previously undergone radiation.
As a patient who had most of every category of surgery known to breast cancer – not by choice but I guess you could say by process or Murphy’s Law I suppose, I would have liked to have known of an implant option after bi-lateral lumpectomy with radiation. I was not only lop-sided and had quite a difficult time finding the proper gel inserts/prothesis for my bra at that time, my clothes continued to shift side-to-side due to different sizing on each breast. During lumpectomy they remove at least 1” margins circumference surrounding your tumor hence – that is a lot of tissue especially if you are not a large breasted woman like me! It left me with my own golf divots and pot holes as I called them on each breast. However, I was told there was no such thing on the market then (2007/2008) as an implant especially after radiation or lumpectomy – why not?
Unfortunately or fortunately, I ended up being allergic to radiation mid-way through and had to switch to bi-lateral mastectomy with reconstructive surgery which was the only reason I received the gummy bear implants as a research patient back then, well that was the first set at that time and then I got a lot more experience having 3 more reconstructive surgeries with implant replacements due to complications. Yes, the original Gummy Bear implants filled all the gaps but then there were other issues. Nonetheless, they have served a purpose and then left me remiss with all those embarrassing moments adjusting my blouse and tops during business and sales meetings. Oh how can I forget, and I laugh?!
Above: photo supplied by AirXpander.
AeroForm vs. Saline. If I had the option back in 2008 to try this product I most certainly would have done so if my physician recommended AirXpanders (http://www.airxpanders.com/aeroform-technology/) post-lumpectomy. The tradeoff seems like an awesome experience compared to over the counter products readily available by many other companies that offer mastectomy fashions just don’t suit the job so to speak. So you be the judge, would you prefer AeroForm over Saline (http://www.airxpanders.com/aeroform-vs-saline/) or Gummy Bear implants? Add this product to your discussion list if you are engaging in breast reconstructive options with your physician. I know I would. It’s not just about how you look on the outside rather it’s about smart choices and informed decisions with the right products on the inside too. Be well and all the breast,