A small remote-controlled device implanted in a woman’s chest allows her to expand her chest tissue at home, without injections, before having reconstructive surgery. Currently, breast cancer patients often undergo several months of saline injections to expand the tissue.
Columbia’s lead investigator on the multi-site trial, Jeffrey Ascherman, MD, professor of clinical surgery, says that saline injections can be painful and often require frequent doctor’s visits. Use of the expander device is not only quicker, he says, but may also improve the cancer survivor’s overall quality of life during a difficult period.
The cartridge of compressed carbon dioxide in the expander is about the size of a AA battery. When the woman presses a button on the remote control, the cartridge releases a small amount of the gas.
Eventually, the device may also be useful in other cases where tissue expansion is required, such as for the excision of giant congenital nevi in children and for the excision of large burn scars.
NY-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center was the first center to receive Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval for a trial of the new technique. The trial is funded by AirXpanders, the maker of the device.