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Procedure Guide Breast Surgery Procedures Breast Reconstruction

Breast Reconstruction Procedure

Breast Reconstruction

  • Used to restore the appearance of women who have had a mastectomy or to correct breast deformities.
  • Encompasses many different reconstructive techniques.
  • Allows women to feel more self-confident and avoid insecurities that could result after a mastectomy.

Many women who have had a mastectomy (the surgical removal of breast tissue), usually due to breast cancer, have benefited from breast reconstruction as a means to restore their natural feminine curves. With their normal appearance restored, women can feel more self-confident and avoid insecurities that could result after a mastectomy. Reconstructive techniques are also used to correct breast deformities.

Breast reconstruction uses either breast implants or a woman's own tissues to create a new, natural looking breast. Breast reconstruction can be performed at the same time as a mastectomy or at a later date. Your plastic surgeon may recommend a breast augmentation, breast lift or breast reduction procedure on the natural breast so that it matches the reconstructed breast.

Many different techniques are currently used for breast reconstruction, and it is usually performed in stages over period of about 6 months. The most common technique involves expanding the skin over the breast area and then inserting a breast implant. A balloon expander is inserted beneath the pectoralis (chest) muscle and periodically injected with a saline solution through a valve beneath the skin. This gradual filling of the expander stretches the skin so that a permanent implant can be inserted in a second operation. Some expanders can be filled and left in place as the permanent implant. Another operation is performed to reconstruct the nipple and areola. Patients do not need to go through the stretching process before receiving the implant.

Other, more complex approaches involves using a woman's own tissues from other parts of the body, such as the thighs, abdomen and buttocks. In one approach, this tissue stays attached to its original location, thereby retaining its original blood supply. A tunnel is created through which the skin flap goes to the breast region to create a pocket for an implant or to serve as the breast tissue itself. In another approach, tissue is removed from its original location and transplanted to the breast area.

The majority of women who undergo breast reconstruction successfully achieve an improved appearance and a boost to their self-image. If you are considering breast reconstruction, the most important thing you can do is locate a qualified plastic surgeon, discuss all of the factors that are relative to you in making your decision and work closely with your doctor throughout the process. See our section on choosing a plastic surgeon for how to choose a plastic surgeon who is right for you.

Planning for breast reconstruction can begin when a patient is diagnosed with breast cancer. Your plastic surgeon should work with the surgeon who performs the masectomy on your overall treatment and reconstruction strategy.

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