Photos

As a pharmacist, Dr. Lisa Birman constantly uses her right arm to open bottles, and by the end of each day her right shoulder and breast were throbbing. (Photography by Benjamin Margalit/Margalit Studio)


Overcoming capsular contracture

Article

Published: 06/13/2017

by Patricia Nugent

Last year, as she was on the brink of turning 40, Dr. Lisa Birman took stock of her life. Loving and supportive husband? Check. Impossibly adorable five-year-old daughter? Check. Fulfilling and rewarding career as a pharmacist? Check. Love the look in the mirror in a bathing suit? Eh, not so much.

 

So with a bold, if-not-now-when spirit, in May 2016 she decided to opt for a breast augmentation, taking her slim, athletic frame from an A-cup to a C-cup.

 

She could not have been happier with the results.

 

“Since high school, I had always felt there was something missing. After the surgery, I felt more proportional. Shopping for clothes was actually fun for the first time. I didn’t have to worry about which styles made me look flat-chested.”

 

Nagging Pain and Misshape

By December, however, Lisa began to notice aches and pain in her right breast. As a pharmacist, she constantly uses her right arm to open bottles, and by the end of each day her right shoulder and breast were throbbing. She felt a hardening in the tissue and noticed her breast was becoming asymmetrical and misshapen.

 

She realized she was suffering from capsular contracture, a possible complication in breast implants caused by the immune system’s response to foreign materials in the body. Tightly woven collagen fibers surround the implant, tightening and compressing it.

 

It’s a natural and common occurrence for a capsule to form around a foreign object in the body, in this case the implant. It becomes a problem when the natural capsule sometimes constricts, which causes hardening of the breast implant shell.

 

Finding Another Answer

“Unfortunately, the standard procedure for treating capsular contracture is to undergo another surgery to replace the implant,” Lisa explains. “With my busy schedule, I really didn’t want to go this route.”

 

It is widely accepted that capsular contracture is the most common complication following implant based breast surgery. The American Society of Plastic Surgeons reports the incidence varies depending on the type of procedure (above or below muscle implant placement), the type of implant (silicone or saline), and certain patient characteristics. Multiple individual studies have published incidence rates of capsular contracture ranging from 2.8% to 20.4%. And women who undergo breast reconstruction after cancer, who have radiation treatment, tend to be more likely to get the condition, and less likely candidates for additional surgery.

 

With these statistics in the back of her mind, Lisa put her background in clinical research to good use and began hunting for other options.

 

She first tried the pharmaceutical approach, which involved taking antiinflammatory drugs, such as Singulair. For her, that made little or no difference. Then Lisa discovered Aspen MultiEnergy Therapy, provided exclusively in Northeast Ohio by Full Circle Solutions Center.

 

“After reviewing the studies of this approach, its effectiveness appeared conclusive,” she says. “And I preferred taking a less invasive, non-operative approach to the problem.”

 

Treating the Contracture 

Aspen Multi-Energy Therapy utilizes a patented technology of tuned sound waves to treat capsular contracture, soften scar tissue, enhance the healing process after surgery, and reduce or eliminate pain. When utilized pre-surgery, it can help reduce the risk of capsular contracture and other irregularities or complications.

 

Ten 30-minute treatments took place over a period of about six weeks.

 

Says Lisa, “The technician placed paddles, like you would see used to resuscitate someone, on the breast to painlessly deliver targeted ultrasound to soften and break up the tissue.”

 

She also received massages along with the treatments by Jeni, a Licensed Massage Therapist.

 

“There was homework, too,” she says. “I had a regimen of at-home daily stretching exercises to support the therapy. They were simple to do, and my husband was happy to help. I also wrapped my chest in a compression bandage each day as part of the therapy.”

 

The end result? Lisa started therapy in December and by March the contracture was completely back to normal.

 

“Even after the first treatment, my chest wall felt less constricted,” she recalls. “After each visit there was noticeable improvement. Now both breasts feel soft and natural.”

 

Her positive results are within the norm for Aspen Multi-Energy Therapy.

 

On patient satisfaction rating websites, such as RealSelf, patients treated with Aspen have a very high level of satisfaction.

 

“In the end, it was much less expensive than surgery, without the risk, and there was no pain or downtime,” she says. “I want women out there to know there are better alternatives to heading back into the O/R to remove a contracted implant.”

 

Full Circle Solutions Center is the exclusive provider of Aspen Multi-Energy Therapy in Northeast Ohio. In addition to treating capsular contracture, Full Circle Solutions Center also has applications that can reduce post-operative complications and scarring. For more information, call 440-290-0909 or visit FullCircleSC.com for additional information and testimonials.