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Could Air-Based Tissue Expanders Replace Saline?

shutterstock_9547297In nearly all cases of implant-based breast reconstruction surgery, I use a tissue expander to prepare the breast for reconstruction. Tissue expanders allow the skin to stretch gradually until able to comfortably accommodate an implant. Expanders are placed under the pectoralis muscle, and traditionally, are filled with saline solution.

New developments in tissue expanding technology have used Aeroform, a patient-controlled expander that uses air instead of saline. The results have been promising, with desired expansion results reached after an average of only 18.2 days as opposed to saline expanders, which normally take around 57 days of tissue expansion.

Potential Benefits of New Expanders

Because patients are in charge of the gradual expansion process, they can enjoy a sense of control over their bodies and their recovery process, a feeling that many of my breast reconstruction patients have missed since their breast cancer diagnosis. And because the air-expansion system can be patient-regulated, the technique also allows patients a degree of independence. In contrast, the saline expansion technique requires weekly appointments for the surgeon to administer additional saline injections.

The new findings could have important implications for breast reconstruction patients, allowing for greater speed, comfort and more personal participation in the recovery process. However, it’s also important to keep in mind that the best way to feel at ease about your breast reconstruction process and results is to choose a highly specialized reconstructive breast surgeon. Whether using saline or air for tissue expansion, skill and experience will remain the defining factors of any reconstructive process.