Breast Reconstruction

For breast cancer patients who have undergone mastectomy treatments, a breast reconstruction can be a life-altering procedure that can restore confidence and contentment with their recovering body.

What is Breast Reconstruction?

Breast reconstruction is a term for a collection of procedures that help restore the structure and composition of the breasts, most commonly following removal due to cancerous activity. It can also occur after breast-deforming trauma or developmental reasons. Whatever the cause, a breast reconstruction uses either implants or autologous techniques (using one’s own tissue from another part of the body) to form a new breast profile. This can be accomplished on both or one breast, with other cosmetic breast procedures performed on the other in order to create symmetry.

Who is a candidate for Breast Reconstruction?

Any woman seeking to restore the profile of her breasts following removal, trauma, or development can consider a breast reconstruction. Candidates should be in good health and able to undergo and successfully heal from an invasive surgery.

What happens during a Breast Reconstruction?

This procedure is highly customized and depends on the patient being treated. In the case of a mastectomy, certain kinds will leave certain parts of the breast intact, while others will not. Your Biloxi plastic surgeon will help you best figure out what treatment options will be best.

During a Flap or autologous technique, the patient’s own tissue is used to augment the breast site, commonly from the lower abdomen. It may also include muscle if it has been removed from the chest wall during the mastectomy. Other donor sites include the buttocks or thighs if not enough tissue is present in the abdomen. Muscle and fat from the latissimus dorsi (the muscles that wrap around the side of the chest from the back) are also sometimes used. These flaps can provide extra skin and tissue, within which an implant can be placed if needed.

Tissue expansion can also be used over time through the use of a placeholder saline implant which is placed surgically, then gradually filled to allow the tissue to expand and accommodate the growing implant.

If the nipple and areola have been removed during the mastectomy, a nipple can be reconstructed by folding skin to mimic the shape, then colored by tattooing.

Results and Recovery

Depending on the severity of the reconstruction, you may require continued revision procedures that utilize fat transfer to better reconstruct the appearance of a natural breast. During the healing process, a compression garment might be administered to be worn in order to help support the new structures and aid in blood flow and healing. Any pain can be managed by prescribed medications and you may be given specific instructions for care by your surgeon.

The goal of a breast reconstruction is to help recreate a sense of physical and emotional confidence, and a healthy, feminine profile. Permanent scarring can be expected, and the reconstructed breast will not feel the same as the prior breast, but most women feel this is unimportant next to the feeling of having a well-shaped, projecting breast profile again.

If you want to speak with someone about the payoffs of a breast reconstruction procedure, contact our office to schedule a consultation with Dr. Richardson.

Breast Reconstruction FAQs

How is breast reconstruction done?

Breast reconstruction can be done with either the use of implants or your own tissue using tissue flaps. The Implants can either be placed right after your cancer surgery or a 2-step approach can be adopted. The area where the implants will be inserted is prepared with the use of tissue expanders which are gradually increased in size so that the breast tissue grows to the required size in order to support your chosen breast implants. This is known as mammoplasty performed after mastectomy. It is a simple reconstruction procedure which does not cause too much scarring and you get a good breast shape which will not change with natural weight fluctuation.

Another option for breast reconstruction uses your body tissue from the abdomen or back. Since it requires a great amount of microsurgery, you must choose an experienced surgeon. There is lesser risk since your own tissue is used and not a foreign material. Additionally, your results will last longer as well.

What are expanders for breast reconstruction?

One of the most common breast reconstruction technique is tissue expansion that involves the use of a tissue expander which helps gradually expand the skin and muscle of the breast. This procedure slowly leads to the stretching of your breast skin and the pectoralis muscle.

A few months later this expander is removed, and the surgeon uses either a permanent breast implant or microvascular flap reconstruction.

What to expect after breast reconstruction surgery?

It is important to be aware of the possible risks and side effects of breast reconstruction surgery. Depending on the kind of reconstruction, most women feel better within a couple of weeks from their surgery and you can return to your normal activities within 2 months. Some of the risks you should be aware of soon after your surgery include:

  • Anesthesia-related risks
  • Bleeding and blood clots
  • Build up of fluids in the breasts or the donor site when a tissue flap is used
  • Infection at the site of surgery
  • Problems with wound healing
  • Fatigue
  • Risks of capsular contracture which can be treated with surgery to remove the scar tissue or replacement of the implant
  • Smokers are at an added risk of longer recovery and noticeable scars.

You will feel sore and tired for about 2 weeks after your implant surgery or longer with the tissue flap procedure. Your surgeon will prescribe medication to control pain and discomfort. Following the aftercare instructions like wearing support garments will ensure your recovery is short, allowing you to return to your activities within 6 to 8 weeks from your breast reconstruction surgery.

How long does breast reconstruction surgery take?

Breast reconstruction is done after a mastectomy. Your plastic surgeon will create a pleasing breast shape with the use of implant reconstruction or tissue flaps used from another area of your body. Sometimes, both the techniques may be used in combination. Your preparation for the breast reconstruction surgery including anesthesia may take 2 hours. Depending on the technique used, the surgery might take from 1 to 6 hours and you will spend another 2 to 3 hours in recovery.

When tissue expanders are used, the surgery is conducted 4 to 6 weeks after your expansion is complete, allowing your skin to rest. In case you require radiation or chemotherapy, it may be longer before your surgery. The actual surgery to remove the expander and insert the implants takes about 1 hour for each breast.