It’s high tech yet simple to use and it’s the latest tool to help prepare a woman for a breast reconstruction after a mastectomy. A recently approved FDA device to expand chest skin for an implant is available in western Montana that replaces saline with CO2.
Most women who want breast reconstruction will need temporary tissue expanders to stretch skin enough to make room for the new permanent implant after having a mastectomy.
The procedure is generally done over time with multiple saline injections in the chest at the doctor’s office but now, there’s he’s something new. The AeroForm Tissue Expander uses carbon dioxide -- or puffs of air -- instead.
Doctor Ryan Marshall at Community Medical Center in Missoula is offering it to his patients.
“It’s an expander that has a CO2 cartridge, or carbon dioxide cartridge, embedded in the expander,” Dr. Marshall explained. “This remote is a radio frequency device that you hold outside your body, press the button -- it’s calibrated through the implant -- and it automatically sends 10 cc into the expander.
The air expander allows the patient to 'fill up' at home at a rate their doctor determines. It's also more convenient for western Montana women who have to travel to see their doctor -- and it could help with their treatment plan.
“Having those needles put into their chest and through the muscle is not only painful, but it’s also an infection risk,” Dr. Marshall said. “So that’s a nice thing to have alleviated especially if they’re currently going through chemotherapy and that’s knocked their immune system down a bit. This eliminates that.”
There’s also no danger that you’ll accidentally overfill it since it’s preprogrammed by your doctor. It offers another option when deciding the next step in your breast cancer journey.
The new CO2 expander is a little bulkier than the regular saline expander so your doctor will help decide if you’re a good candidate for the new technology.