Patients Benefit from Emerging Field of Regenerative Medicine
52-year old Anna Minogue of Stafford, Virginia says she feels like a “completely different person,” now that she has completed her breast reconstruction with the use of a bio-engineered skin called AlloDerm. Her journey began back in 2007 when she was diagnosed with stage-2 breast cancer in her right breast. Later that year she had a double mastectomy and breast reconstruction, but because of complications from necessary abdominal surgeries she was also having at the time, her breast reconstruction was delayed and only partially successful.
“At the time I wasn’t really thinking about the aesthetics of my breasts when I had so many other medical issues going on,” Anna said.
In 2009 Anna’s plastic surgeon Maurice Nahabedian, MD revised her breast reconstruction using a bio-engineered skin called Alloderm.
“In Anna’s case I used the AlloDerm to better define the space in which the implant was placed,” said Maurice Nahabedian, MD, breast surgeon at Georgetown University Hospital. “The Alloderm adheres to the surrounding tissues around the implant and eventually becomes incorporated into her real tissues.”
Alloderm has been in use in the United States for about 12 years. It was initially used in burn patients and later was used for abdominal wall reconstructions. “I’ve been using it for breast reconstruction in my patients for the past four years and now use it in mostly everyone because it’s safe and it works really well,” according to Dr. Nahabedian.
During the course of a breast reconstruction, Dr. Nahabedian uses Alloderm, typically in sheets measuring six by 16 centimeters when a woman chooses to have a breast implant. The benefits include improved breast shape, because the implant is optimally positioned, as well as improved definition of the natural contour lines beneath and lateral to the breast, both important aesthetic landmarks.
“In a typical case using AlloDerm, I will use a temporary implant referred to as a tissue expander. These temporary implants have a fixed volume and are selected based on the woman’s natural breast shape. The tissue expanders are gradually filled with saline to stretch the remaining skin, following the mastectomy and in order to attain the desired breast volume. With AlloDerm, I am able to fill these temporary implants to 60-70% capacity. Without AlloDerm, I was typically only able to expand to 10-20% capacity. The significance of this is that the soft tissues of the breast are rapidly expanded before scar tissue sets in, which can impede the expansion process. With this technique, women are able to enter the operating room with their breast and exit the operating room with a breast. This was not possible prior to AlloDerm,” Dr. Nahabedian said.
Alloderm is made from donated skin that is processed and treated. All of the cells are removed. “You are left with basically a collagen scaffold or matrix,” said Dr. Nahabedian. “Once it’s implanted into a patient, it grows blood vessels and new cells grow into it. It becomes part of the person and they don’t even know it, and it lasts forever.”
“The breast on my left side just didn’t look right until I had the follow-up surgery with the AlloDerm. It was uncomfortable. I didn’t think I would feel this way, but I didn’t feel like a real woman. I only felt like a woman with breast cancer,” said Anna.
“AlloDerm represents one of the new advancements in plastic surgery and is becoming accepted into this evolving field of regenerative medicine,” said Dr. Nahabedian. “It’s a product that has generated a lot of excitement and enthusiasm because it allows women to get quality breast reconstruction rather than live with a flat chest or a deformity that might be very upsetting for them.”
“Alloderm gave me natural-looking and feeling breasts. Now I look in the mirror and see a woman, not a woman with breast cancer. I feel like I have breasts again. All of my girlfriends have seen them, can’t believe the improvement and they say, ‘wow.’”
Alloderm is made by Life Cell and is only approved for use in the United States.
Media Contact: Marianne Worley
Patient Contact: 202-342-2400