What is Breast Reconstruction ?

What is Breast Reconstruction?

Breast reconstruction is a cosmetic procedure intended to rebuild and/or improve the look of the breasts.

Who undergoes Breast Reconstruction?

Breast cancer patients commonly undergo breast reconstruction. The surgery is performed after a mastectomy or lumpectomy to restore the shape of the breasts. Women who were born with breast deformities or who desire a more symmetrical look to their breasts may also undergo this procedure.

Who is a candidate for Breast Reconstruction?

To be a candidate for breast reconstruction, a person must have good heart health and be fit enough to undergo and recover from the surgery. Candidacy for this procedure is determined by a physical exam and an office visit with a plastic surgeon.

How is Breast Reconstruction performed?

In one method of breast reconstruction, a surgeon will place either an expander or an implant under the pectoralis muscle. If an expander is used, it is not filled to full capacity to allow time for healing and expansion of the skin tissue. It is gradually filled with sterile saline to expand and allow the tissues to extend to the desired size. The expander is then removed two to four months later and replaced in a separate surgery with an implant. Patients may generally choose between silicone or saline implants in consultation with a surgeon.  

In an alternate method, excess tissue is taken from the abdomen in what is known as a flap method and moved to the breast. In this procedure, patients benefit from having breasts that are made from their own body tissue. The surgery is done in such a way to keep muscle function intact in the abdominal area. If the abdomen is not an ideal site for tissue removal, the thighs, buttocks, hips and back are possible options.

What is the recovery like?

For several weeks after a breast reconstruction, the patient generally feels sore, achy and tired. Surgery stitches heal slowly and scars fade gradually. Some patients will have drainage tubes that eliminate excess fluids from the surgery area. These tubes are held in place until the drainage is significantly decreased.

Resumption of daily activities can take six weeks or longer, depending on the strenuousness of the lifestyle. Heavy lifting or strenuous sports are generally to be avoided during this time. Recovery time generally varies from individual to individual. Some women can take as long as a year or longer to heal completely.

What are the risks?

The risks include the possibility of tissue loss, excessive bleeding and infection. Adverse reactions to anesthesia may also be problematic in a small percentage of patients. In the case of tissue moved to the breast area from the abdomen, insufficient supply of blood can cause dead tissue. This is an uncommon complication, but requires trimming of the dead tissue to be performed in an additional surgery.

What will the results be like?

Breast reconstruction results in breasts with normal contours. For women who have undergone a mastectomy or lumpectomy, the breasts will not be identical to their natural shape and look, but will have a similar look, especially when clothed.

Disclaimer: This information is intended only as an introduction to this procedure. This information should not be used to determine whether you will have the procedure performed nor does it guarantee results of your elective surgery. Further details regarding surgical standards and procedures should be discussed with your physician.

By PlasticSurgeons.com Staff

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