After a woman has gotten the debilitating diagnosis of breast cancer, the last thing she is emotionally ready for is mastectomy surgery. A mastectomy involves partial or complete removal of the breasts. Breast-reconstruction surgery is a way to help make the experience easier on patients by restoring the appearance of the breasts after mastectomy surgery.

What Does the Breast-Reconstruction Procedure Entail?

Breast reconstruction is an intricate procedure. There are two primary methods of conducting the surgery: breast implants and flap procedures. Sometimes, a combination of both methods is used for reconstruction.

Implant-Based Reconstruction

The implant procedure involves the insertion of silicone or saline implants in place of the removed breast tissue. This often involves expanding the tissues of the breasts using a temporary saline prosthetic called a tissue expander.

After the tissue expander is inserted, saline is then periodically added to it in order to stretch the overlying tissues to the desired size. After the tissues are healed, the second part of surgery is conducted. The temporary tissue expander is replaced with a permanent saline or silicone implant.

Flap Reconstruction

In case of flap reconstruction, tissues from different parts of the body are used. Generally, tissues are extracted from the buttocks, abdomen, thigh, or back. Since this form of reconstruction involves transferring tissue from one region to another, the complexity is far greater than that of implantation. It is done in one of two ways: free flap or pedicle flap.

In the free-flap method, the entire tissue and blood vessels surrounding it are removed and transplanted to the chest. In order to work with the minuscule blood vessels, a microscope is used. It is a complex and lengthy procedure during which the blood vessels are carefully sewn together.

In the pedicle flap method, the tissue comes from the abdomen or back and is only partly cut from the blood vessels and left attached to the original body part. The tissue is then reconstructed to form the breast.

A patient may sometimes require undergoing a combination of skin flap and implant surgery. Owing to the complexity of the skin-flap method, recovery is much slower. In either case, the patient is required to stay at the hospital for several days before she can be discharged.

What to Expect After the Procedure

Regular activities can be resumed two months after discharge. One can expect minor discomfort such as numbness, swelling, and fatigue after surgery. It might also take a while before one can move freely and resume any intense physical activities. Painkillers and elastic support bras greatly minimize discomfort.

A successful surgery can go a long way in improving an individual’s positive self-image. Eventually, one will be able to engage in physical activities again.

Although the reconstructed breasts may not be the exact replicas of the original ones, they can do a lot to ease the overall trauma of the process.

Contact Our Office to Learn More

Having breasts that you’re not proud of can severely affect your confidence and impact many aspects of your life. To schedule an informative consultation, contact our office. Board-certified plastic surgeon Dr. Joseph Thornton will be happy to help you find out more about this reconstructive procedure.