The Breast services team at NCIC has pioneered a new development in breast reconstruction at the West Cumberland Hospital. 

It was developed and pioneered by Mr Ioannis Michalakis, Consultant Breast Surgeon and associate medical director at the Trust, as part of a reconstructive breast procedure for breast cancer patients.

Ioannis_Michalakis-0001-1000x380.pngMr Michalakis said: “In the past reconstructive surgery was a very complex procedure involving plastic surgery; taking tissue from other parts of the body and try to put that in the breast. So it was very complex procedure, with more risk and would take time particularly to recover. We had to refer people out of the county for this. Now we use an implant that goes under the skin and we are able to deliver the procedure right here in Whitehaven and it is this procedure that we have now perfected further.

“In recent years breast reconstruction has successfully used a special mesh which goes over the implant and then fully sewn to the chest wall to keep it in place. I developed that technique further so that the mesh covers the whole implant and can be fixed in a fewer steps on the chest wall so to fuse with the skin at the front.  

“The mesh is used to support and stabilise the breast implant, ensuring it is held in the correct position on the chest wall and minimises unwanted movement. When compared to the original technique it also allows easier access with smaller incisions.

“The improved technique means less operating time so I am able to do this procedure twice in one day – before we only had enough time for one – so we have doubled capacity. More importantly for the patient it means less scarring and improved cosmetic appearance and much quicker recovery time. Patients can go home the same day or the next day and should be back to normal activities within two weeks.”

More than 200 women have successfully had the reconstruction which is undertaken at the same time as the mastectomy. Feedback has been very good with one patent explaining the importance of the reconstruction by saying: “Mastectomy is part of the treatment and reconstruction is part of the healing process.”

Mr Michalakis said the success of the new technique is down to the team:

“When I put forward this new idea it was the team that took it and got everything ready for me behind the scenes so I was able to do it on the operating table. It was a real team effort. I am very proud that in our little corner of the world we have been able to innovate and now we are able to support women all over the world to have better results for breast reconstruction.”

The improved technique has been so successful that the team were asked to develop a training video so it can be shared internationally as best practice.

Mr Michalakis explains:

“Our team was chosen as pioneers as we have initiated and developed this new technique with impressive results, supporting best practice use of this mesh implant. We have completed audits of this new technique with findings presented to The Northern Cancer Alliance Breast team and are in the process of writing a paper for publication. We recently recorded a training video which will be used by other clinical professionals, both nationally and internationally, to use as a reference for best practice when inserting a mesh as part of breast reconstructive surgery.”

Ellen Newlands, Theatre Nurse at WCH said:

“We are thrilled to able to provide skilled reconstruction surgery from the West Cumberland Hospital. The theatre facilities here truly are cutting edge, making it the ideal base for safe provision of reconstructive surgery, it’s a privilege to be part of a team providing pioneering surgery to the women Cumbria.”

Becky Moore, Advanced Clinical Practitioner added:

“I am so proud that we can demonstrate expert clinical skills and best practice to other clinical professionals. We hold ourselves to a really high standard and it is so great that we can showcase our talent to others.”

Showcasing this innovation is very important; the Trust is aiming to host surgeons from all over the country to come and see the procedure being undertaken in Whitehaven.

All breast surgery in north Cumbria is undertaken at the West Cumberland Hospital and the innovative technique is already being undertaken by our surgeons there with more than 200 women benefitting.

The mesh is provided by Integra Life ScieSurgiMend® PRS Meshed | Q Medicalnces; who is dedicated to bringing life-saving medical technologies to surgeons and patients around the world. The team used the Surgimend mesh for breast reconstructive patients. 

If you would like to view the a video of the surgery taking place you can view it by visiting SurgiMend® PRS Meshed | Q Medical WARNING: Videos show graphic surgical procedures.