In January 2010, CBS news did a segment on breast reconstruction with artificial skin. Dr. Ron Israeli with Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, PC provides the medical expertise in explaining the process. This process replaces the tissue expander that was previously used in preparation for implant placement.
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Dr. Max Gomez: And now this type of new breast reconstruction. It does use artificial skin, but not to replace lost skin. It's used to extend and expand the tissues underneath to give a much more natural result, and it can all be done at the same time as the original mastectomy. Very important for women like Suzanne Sullivan.
Suzanne Sullivan: It would have been more traumatic to wake up and have no breasts.
Dr. Max Gomez: Suzanne Sullivan was only 33 when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Turns out she had the breast cancer gene mutation, so . . .
Suzanne Sullivan: I chose the double mastectomy because I didn't want to always worry that it would be recurring.
Dr. Gomez: Nowadays, mastectomies are usually done in a way that saves the skin. And multiple studies have found that, as in Suzanne's case, it is also safe to do a breast reconstruction at the same time as the original mastectomy. But that usually involves several stages in order to stretch, not the skin, but the underlying muscle in order to place an implant.
Dr. Ron Israeli: If we can find something that extends that muscle, that replaces missing tissue, allowing us to really utilize that skin at the time of the mastectomy, well, that would be a great opportunity.
Dr. Gomez: And now there is just such a thing. It's called AlloDerm. It's actually a kind of artificial skin made from donated human skin that's been specially treated to remove the cells.
Dr. Ron Israeli: Because there's no cells, you can then actually put it into an individual and they're not going to reject it or get a reaction to it.
Dr. Gomez: Here's how it works. At the time of mastectomy, the surgeon forms a pocket for the implant under the pectoral muscle. The implant is inserted, and then the AlloDerm is used to for a kind of hammock under the implant. Over time, the patient's own cells and blood vessels grow into it, making it part of her body.
Dr. Ron Israeli: It allows us to better support the implant, to create a more natural crease. It allows us to get more projection or more volume.
Suzanne Sullivan: I'm very pleased with the results. It's amazing. I virtually have no scars, and they look fantastic.
Dr. Max Gomez: Now before, Dr. Israeli would have had to put in what's called a tissue expander to stretch the muscle and form a pocket, followed months later by another operation to insert the implant. Obviously, this is much easier, and it looks better. And by the way, Suzanne is now two years after her diagnosis, and she's doing well.
Maurice DuBois: Good for her.
Kate Sullivan: Excellent. So this artificial skin replaces the actual breast tissue?
Dr. Max Gomez: It actually forms . . . it's sort of an extender for the breast tissue. It does not cover skin on the outside. All of the skin in these new techniques in a mastectomy are usually left behind. So there's enough skin there to form the new breast, but the pocket where the implant goes, goes underneath the muscle, and there's not enough space underneath there. So they lift up the muscle, and then this just give a little extra, like a hammock or support that extends the tissue so that the implant can be placed under the muscle. Gives a much more natural look and kind of supports the implant, but the skin is all there in most cases nowadays. It's called skin-sparing mastectomy.
Kate Sullivan: Wow.
Dr. Max Gomez: The breast tissue is taken out, and the skin is left behind.
Maurice DuBois: She's real happy too. She's real pleased.
Dr. Max Gomez: Very happy. Yeah, she's very happy.
Kate Sullivan: That's great. All right. What a development. Thanks so much, Dr. Max Gomez.