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Breast reconstruction is a surgical procedure designed to recreate breasts after a mastectomy. Procedures for breast reconstruction come in a wide variety. While some are completed (or started) concurrently with a mastectomy or lumpectomy (immediate reconstruction), others are done later (delayed reconstruction). 

The patient may have surgery to recreate both breasts or the doctor can swap out one breast for another and reshape it to match. Several surgeries that spread out across several phases may be recommended. 

Types of Breast Reconstruction Surgery 

There are primarily two forms of breast reconstruction surgery: flap reconstruction and implant reconstruction. 

Flap reconstruction 

In this procedure, the surgeon creates a breast using autologous tissue taken from the patient’s body. The tissue is normally removed from the lower abdomen (belly). However, it can also be sourced from the patient’s thigh, back or buttocks. 

Implant reconstruction 

During implant reconstruction, saline or silicone implants are used by surgeons to replicate breast tissue. Sometimes the surgeon may opt for a combination of implants and tissue from the patient’s body.  

It is possible to combine implant reconstruction with a mastectomy or the patient may decide to undergo this procedure after a mastectomy. 

Possible Complications of Breast Reconstruction Surgery 

Some of the possible complications that may be associated with breast reconstruction include: 

  • Fat necrosis 
  • Problems with the implants 
  • Discomfort, pain, or weakness at the donor site after flap restoration 
  • Blood clots 
  • Bruising around the reconstructed breasts 

How to Determine the Ideal Breast Reconstruction Type 

Your doctor will help determine the suitable breast reconstruction surgery based on the following factors: 

  • How much tissue is still there after undergoing a mastectomy or lumpectomy. 
  • The patient’s age, overall health, and lifestyle
  • Whether the patient needs additional treatments for breast cancer 
  • Prior procedures the patient has undergone may make it challenging or impossible to remove a flap from the patient’s belly 

What Happens Before Breast Reconstruction? 

Often, a breast reconstruction procedure is done after a mastectomy or lumpectomy. If the patient had breast cancer, she may need to undergo chemotherapy or radiation before reconstruction surgery. 

The surgeon will first need to conduct a thorough examination whereby he/she will measure and take photographs of the patient’s breast. The patient might be asked to stop taking some medications prior to the procedure. 

The Procedure 

The breast reconstruction procedure is carried out in the hospital under general anesthesia. During the procedure, the breast surgeon will reconstruct the patient’s breast. If the patient is receiving an implant, it is positioned in her chest. If the patient is having a flap, the new breast is formed and placed using tissue from another area of her body.  

The surgeon may place a drain, normally a thin tube under the patient’s skin during the surgery. One end of the tube will stick out from the chest mainly to drain fluid and blood as she recovers. 

What to Expect After Breast Reconstruction Surgery 

After the procedure, the patient may need to stay in the hospital for up to a week so as to be monitored closely to ensure she is healing as expected. The breast surgeon will give postoperative instructions to the patient when she is ready to go home. Over-the-counter pain medication and antibiotics will also be prescribed to the patient to alleviate any discomfort, and reduce the risk of infection. 

Benefits of Breast Reconstruction 

  • The reconstruction of breasts makes a woman feel and look ‘whole’ again 
  • Impacts a woman’s self-esteem positively 
  • A woman after breast reconstruction can wear normal clothing without the need for an external breast prosthesis 
  • It increases the women’s self confidence 

 

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