What is Breast Reconstruction?
Breast reconstruction is a surgical procedure done to rebuild a patient’s breast after a mastectomy. It is considered major surgery, and the patient will be sedated or put under general anesthesia. Women who get breast reconstruction are under a lot of emotional stress, Dr. Barone understands this and strives to help his patients be comfortable for the procedure.
Breast Reconstruction Options
The patient may undergo breast reconstruction immediately after the mastectomy or at a later date. The former procedure is called one-stage immediate breast reconstruction, while the latter is called two-stage delayed breast reconstruction. Women who are getting implants or need to undergo radiation therapy often choose two-stage delayed breast reconstruction.
One-stage immediate breast restoration does offer its advantages. It requires less surgery, and the patient often enjoys a better-looking result. The chest tissues are easier for the surgeon to work with as they have not been damaged by scars or radiation therapy.
The patient may also choose between getting implants or they may use fat taken from the patient’s abdomen or hips to craft a new breast. The doctor will perform liposuction to remove the fat, purify it, and then shape it into a breast mound.
Some patients may get both implants and a fat transfer, while some choose just the fat transfer. The latter option is a longer and more intense surgery, for it involves microsurgery during which the surgeon will attach the nerves and blood vessels in the transplanted tissue to those in the patient’s chest. While this procedure will take hours, it provides advantages such as a natural appearance. A reconstructed breast made wholly of transferred fat also requires less maintenance and monitoring than an implant.
The patient and the surgeon can also choose from several possible techniques. If the patient is getting a fat transfer, she may undergo a TRAM flap technique or a DIEP flap technique. In a TRAM flap technique, the surgeon will take skin, fat, and muscle from a donor site such as the abdomen and reshape it into a breast mound. In the DIEP technique, the surgeon will use only skin and fat to make the breast mound.
Patients receiving implants will often undergo tissue expansion. In this technique, the surgeon will place an expander underneath the skin and gradually fill it with a saline solution to stimulate the growth of new skin to make room for the implant.
Implant surgery has the advantages of being a quick procedure. The patient can also choose a cohesive gel or “gummy bear” implants that look and feel like natural breasts.
Why Would Someone Need Breast Reconstruction?
Breast reconstruction is most commonly done after the patient has had a mastectomy or surgical removal of the breast. Most patients undergo a mastectomy as part of their breast cancer treatment.
Patients who have undergone a mastectomy often choose breast reconstruction for a variety of reasons that can include the following:
- They don’t want to wear a prosthesis like a breast form inside their bra
- They want to permanently regain the original shape of their breast
- They want their profile to look balanced and symmetrical
- They hope to improve their self-esteem and self-image
Breast reconstruction is thus done to restore the patient to their pre-surgery appearance. The surgeon will reconstruct the breast to look like the original, and they can even add the nipple and areola (the dark area surrounding the nipple).