AirXpanders sold 50 per cent more of its surgical breast tissue expanders in the last quarter — winning approval from  investors and reaffirming its status as a takeover target, an analyst says.

AirXpanders (ASX:AXP), which makes patient-controlled breast tissue expanders for women who’ve had mastectomies, sold 459 devices in the third quarter.

That’s up from 297 in the second quarter.

After a flurry of trading activity on Thursday, AirXpander’s shares rose another 8 per cent in Friday morning trade to hit 85c.

The sales increase came from the US where AirXpanders is expanding its focus.

Chief executive Scott Dodson told Stockhead the device maker now dominated 30 per cent of the tissue expander market in Australia after launching here in 2015.

In the US, 120 hospitals and 160 surgeons have been pre-approved to use the technology.

In a conference call the company said 80 of those surgeons had completed pilots and 64 had reordered.

Analyst Matthijs Smith from Cannacord believes the business is a takeover target.

“It’s a company that has a single product. It is without a doubt an absolutely revolutionary, market-leading product,” Mr Smith told Stockhead.

“You have a market that is very concentrated with two main players, Allergan and Mentor.

“You look at those dynamics and say one of you guys has the potential to buy a product that will takeover a market and if one of you doesn’t the other one will.”

The ‘Angelina Jolie’ effect

The market is becoming big business, as testing for the ‘breast cancer gene’ BRCA means more women are opting for mastectomies at younger ages.

If they wish to have reconstructions — an option that doctors in the US must by law inform women about and insurers are mandated to pay for even if one or both are removed as a precaution — tissue expanders are the most common way to prepare the body for an implant.

The device is placed behind the chest wall muscle and slowly expanded.

The old fashioned tech is a saline bag that requires injections to fill it over time. AirXpanders has a carbon dioxide reservoir which can be released over time by the woman using a hand-held controlled.

Most importantly, this can be done at home, without injections.

Reconstruction today is ‘barbaric’

“We believe that this technology is the most innovative to come in this space in close to five decades,” Mr Dodson said. “We believe that the way reconstruction is done today is barbaric.”

“We think that women understanding their choices better will enable them to make better choices.”

US figures for reconstruction numbers are around 78,000 procedures a year, according to Mr Smith. About 69 per cent of those women had both breasts reconstructed.

Some 130,000 expander devices are sold in the US every year.

Will investors buy the story?

AirXpanders’ tech has been lauded by analysts as an improvement on other options such as the saline bag, or direct implants of tissue from cadavers.

At $2700 a pop (compared to about $25,000 for the cadaver implant) it’s a cheaper and less invasive way to deal with a draw-out, traumatic medical process.

It’s not yet clear if investors have fully bought the story, however.

Despite a 15 per cent lift since October 9, AirXpanders shares have been on a fairly consistent downward slope this year.

From a high of $1.25 in January, shares hit a 12-month low of 59c in July.

Since then, the shares have mounted a recovery to 85c.

Mr Smith said investors might have been waiting for today’s quarterly results to see whether AirXpanders would again hit its sales and hospital and surgeon sign-up targets.