Breast reconstruction options
Reconstructing a breast that has been removed due to cancer or other disease is one of today's most rewarding procedures - helping a woman to re-establish her sense of beauty, dignity and worth is, truly, priceless.
Procedures to re-construct the breast are not simple - be sure to discuss all aspects of reconstructive breast surgery with your surgeon, and ask questions if you are unclear about any aspect of the surgery or post-surgery recovery.
Are you a candidate for breast reconstruction?
Breast Reconstruction following Breast Removal - In-depth information from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.
Surgical breast reconstruction options: Two basic types of reconstruction are skin expansion and implant, and flap reconstruction.
Skin expansion and implant: This is usually a two-part procedure. First, a tissue expander is placed in the breast area beneath the skin and chest muscle. Similar to a balloon, the tissue expander is filled with a salt water solution and re-filled periodically (usually weekly) to stretch the skin. Inserting the tissue expander is about a 45-minute procedure. Incremental expansions will take three to four months; once the skin has stretched sufficiently, the surgeon will replace the tissue expander with a saline or silicone breast implant.
Flap reconstruction: A breast is constructed using tissue from another part of the patient's body. This process is called autologous tissue reconstruction, and involves taking a "flap" of skin, fat and some muscle from a specific area of the body called a donor site. There are two methods used to transfer this tissue to the breast:
- Pedicled flap transfer method: blood vessels are not divided and the tissue is tunneled from one part of the body to the new area. In the
- Free flap transfer method: blood vessels are divided, the tissue is transferred, and then the blood vessels are reattached to new vessels near the breast.
Some flaps are only transferred as pedicled flaps; others are transferred only as free flaps, and still others can be transferred either way.