Breast Cancer Survivors Use At-Home Method to Prep Their Breasts for Reconstruction

NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia Is NYC Metro Area's Only Hospital Offering the New Approach

Jan 31, 2012


NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center is the first hospital in the New York metro area to offer breast cancer survivors an at-home method for tissue expansion in preparation for breast reconstruction surgery. Patients use a remote control to gradually create a space within their chest wall for a breast implant.

Breast cancer patients who wish to have reconstructive surgery after mastectomy have often had to undergo a process involving injections of saline to gradually expand skin and muscle of their chest. The process can be painful and may require frequent doctor's visits over the course of four to six months or longer.

"Unfortunately, less than half of all women who have mastectomies in the United States undergo reconstructive surgery. One major factor in this decision may be limitations of the traditional approaches," says Dr. Jeffrey Ascherman, NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia's principal investigator of the study, site chief of the Division of Plastic Surgery at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center, and professor of clinical surgery at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons.

The new approach is designed to promote a higher quality of life for patients dealing with cancer recovery. Once a small expander device is implanted in the patient's chest, she can control the process in the comfort of her home ‐ without any injections and with fewer doctor's visits. At a moment of the patient's choosing, a remote control is used to activate the device and release a small amount of compressed carbon dioxide.

"The whole process is also a lot quicker," says Dr. Ascherman. In a study of the device in Australia, in 15 days the CO2 method created a space for the breast that would normally have taken several months of saline injections.

The procedure is offered as part of an ongoing clinical trial designed to compare the outcomes of the traditional saline expansion method with the investigational, remote-controlled tissue expander. NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia was the first center in the U.S. to receive Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval for a trial of the new technique, the first center in the U.S. to begin using the device, and it is currently the only hospital in the Eastern U.S. to be actively participating in the trial. Study funding is provided by AirXpanders Inc. of Palo Alto, Calif.

Eligible patients include non-obese women from 18 to 65 years of age who do not smoke, have not had previous tissue expansion or radiation therapy, and who are opting for breast reconstruction with tissue expansion after mastectomy. For more information about the trial, patients can contact Dr. Ascherman at [email protected] or (212) 305-9612.

Columbia University Medical Center

Columbia University Medical Center provides international leadership in basic, pre-clinical and clinical research, in medical and health sciences education, and in patient care. The Medical Center trains future leaders and includes the dedicated work of many physicians, scientists, public health professionals, dentists, and nurses at the College of Physicians & Surgeons, the Mailman School of Public Health, the College of Dental Medicine, the School of Nursing, the biomedical departments of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, and allied research centers and institutions. Established in 1767, Columbia's College of Physicians and Surgeons was the first institution in the country to grant the M.D. degree and is now among the most selective medical schools in the country. Columbia University Medical Center is home to the largest medical research enterprise in New York City and state and one of the largest in the United States. For more information, please visit

NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital

NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, based in New York City, is the nation's largest not-for-profit, non-sectarian hospital, with 2,409 beds. The Hospital has nearly 2 million inpatient and outpatient visits in a year, including 12,797 deliveries and 195,294 visits to its emergency departments. NewYork-Presbyterian's 6,144 affiliated physicians and 19,376 staff provide state-of-the-art inpatient, ambulatory and preventive care in all areas of medicine at five major centers: NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center, NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center, NewYork-Presbyterian/Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital, NewYork-Presbyterian/The Allen Hospital and NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Westchester Division. One of the most comprehensive health care institutions in the world, the Hospital is committed to excellence in patient care, research, education and community service. NewYork-Presbyterian is the #1 hospital in the New York metropolitan area and is consistently ranked among the best academic medical institutions in the nation, according to U.S.News & World Report. The Hospital has academic affiliations with two of the nation's leading medical colleges: Weill Cornell Medical College and Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons.

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