Textile Technology Grad Student Partners With Surgeon to Demystify Breast Surgery

Kinley Lingenfelter applies her fashion design and textile expertise to redesign a patented education model for breast surgery patients.
Photo of Kinley Lingenfelter
After graduation, Kinley Lingenfelter will work at QVC as an assistant technical designer.

In any medical journey, unrealistic expectations and a lack of education can significantly hinder the patient experience. Breast reconstruction and augmentation surgery are no different.

“For years, surgeons have had to rely on 2D models to explain the surgical process and equip patients with the knowledge they need to make informed decisions for their bodies. Unfortunately, these models just don’t cut it,” says Sea Girt, N.J.-based plastic surgeon Dr. Caroline Glicksman, who’s looking to transform patient education for breast surgery. “I wanted a realistic model my patients could connect to, one that would better prepare them for their surgeries.”

Dr. Glicksman proactively filled the need for her patients by creating and patenting a breast implant teaching model. Using a mannequin bust, she created a replica of a human torso, complete with skin, muscles and space for a breast implant.

However, her handmade model needed some improvements. It was constructed with layers of fabric held together by Velcro and wasn’t realistic or sturdy enough for daily use.

Sea Girt, N.J.-based plastic surgeon Dr. Caroline Glicksman

Plastic surgeon Dr. Caroline Glicksman wanted a realistic model that would prepare patients for breast surgery.

Dr. Glicksman turned to friend Dr. Christopher Pastore, professor of transdisciplinary studies at Jefferson, for the expertise she needed to design a more sophisticated and anatomically accurate model for production.

Dr. Pastore recommended textile technology master’s student and four-time Fashion Scholarship Fund recipient Kinley Lingenfelter. With her dual background in fashion design and textile technology, she was the perfect fit for this project, which received funding from Mentor Worldwide, part of Johnson & Johnson MedTech.

“Dr. Glicksman had a really clear vision of what she wanted the model to look like and how she wanted it to work, but there were some challenges along the way,” Lingenfelter says. “I’m passionate about problem-solving and developing innovative solutions through design. From a textile perspective, this project required a great deal of creative and entrepreneurial thinking.”

The first challenge was selecting the right materials to mimic body parts like muscle and skin realistically. Lingenfelter wanted to find textured fabric for the muscle and smooth, neutral-toned fabric for the skin, but both had to be flexible enough to be stretched and manipulated during a demonstration.

breast implant teaching model

Kinley Lingenfelter’s breast implant teaching model will help patients make better informed decisions for their bodies.

Lingenfelter used Lycra to create a smooth, soft layer of skin and taffeta to construct the muscles and ligaments. “I wanted a crushed taffeta in red that had the undulation of the muscular system with the color accuracy and stretch needed to mimic muscle abilities,” Lingenfelter explains. “Its imperfect, directional texture is characteristic of muscle fibers, which added some realism to the model.”

These materials also had to detach and reattach to the model—the second challenge, Lingenfelter says. “For example, Dr. Glicksman might need to take a piece of muscle from the abdomen and attach it to the pectoral muscle to support an implant. So, we had to find a way to attach and stack pieces like this around the model.”

Lingenfelter created internal tunneling along the edges of the Lycra and used spiral steel boning with strong neodymium bar magnets to create a structured but flexible layer of skin. She then crafted a steel bust to serve as the base layer for the magnets and hand-sewed it onto the model.

I’m glad to play a role in a project that will help so many future patients. –Kinley Lingenfelter

“The boning of the ‘skin’ is strong enough that it keeps the magnets from caving in on each other, but it allows the user to easily move the layer around the model or remove it entirely to access the muscles and other pieces underneath,” Lingenfelter says.

After months of hard work, she produced a high-fidelity prototype that’s almost production ready. “The final hurdle would be scaling the model for mass production,” Lingenfelter adds.

“This model will be an invaluable teaching tool for doctors and their patients,” Dr. Glicksman says. “We’re much closer to having a prototype that can be widely manufactured and distributed as a free teaching tool for surgeons, making realistic, preoperative patient education more accessible.”

Lingenfelter will graduate with her master’s this May and has accepted a full-time position as an assistant technical designer at QVC. “Working on this model with Dr. Glicksman was an amazing learning experience,” she says. “I might not have pursued a project like this outside of Jefferson, and I’m glad to play a role in a project that will help so many future patients.”

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Design and Style, Health