Which breast reconstruction technique is right for me?
Breast reconstruction techniques include:
- Tissue expansion with breast implants
- Flap reconstruction
After evaluating your health, your surgeon will explain which reconstructive options are most appropriate for your age, health, anatomy and tissues. The surgeon should describe your options, including the risks and limitations of each. In most cases, health insurance will cover most or all of the cost of post-mastectomy reconstruction. Check your policy to see if there are any limitations on what types of reconstruction are covered.
Flap reconstruction is more complex than skin expansion. Scars will be left at both the tissue donor site and the reconstructed breast, and recovery will take longer than with an implant. However, using your own tissue produces more natural results without the concern of implant rupture.
How does it work?
During tissue expansion, the doctor will place a balloon expander under your skin and chest muscle. Through a tiny valve under the skin, saline is injected, which gradually fills the expander. The balloon stretches the skin over the breast area, creating a pocket for a breast implant. Some patients do not require tissue expansion before receiving an implant. For these patients, inserting the implant is the first step.
During flap reconstruction, the surgeon creates a skin flap using tissue taken from other parts of the body such as the back, abdomen or buttocks. The flap may remain attached to its original blood supply, or it may be connected to a new one. The flap of tissue is tunneled beneath the skin to the chest, creating a pocket for an implant, or creating the breast itself.
How do I prepare for breast reconstruction?
You can begin a discussion about breast reconstruction as soon as you are diagnosed with cancer. The surgical oncologist should work with Dr. Lowe to develop a strategy that will prepare you for reconstruction.
What happens after breast reconstruction?
Patients should expect to spend up to five days recovering in the hospital. Many reconstruction options require a surgical drain to remove excess fluids from surgical sites immediately following the operation. These are typically removed a week or two after surgery. Most stitches are removed in 7-10 days. Follow-up surgery may be required to reconstruct the nipple and areola and to contour the new breast to the approximate size and shape of the natural breast.
It may take up to six weeks to recover from breast reconstruction when combined with a mastectomy. If implants are used without flaps or reconstruction is performed alone, your recovery time may be less.
What are the risks of breast reconstruction?
Possible complications can include bleeding, fluid collection, excessive scar tissue or difficulties with anesthesia. If implants are used, there is the possibility that an infection may develop. In these cases, the implant may need to be removed. Another potential problem is capsular contracture, when the scar around the implant begins to tighten.
Reconstruction has no known effect on the recurrence of disease in the breast, nor does it interfere with chemotherapy or radiation treatment should cancer recur.
Schedule a Consultation to Learn More
To learn more about breast reconstruction in Oklahoma City, please contact Dr. James Lowe by calling (405) 942-4300 or (877) 362-5693. You can also send us an email using our online contact form. Lowe Plastic Surgery's clinical practice is located less than a mile east of Integris Baptist Medical Center at 2520 NW Expressway in Oklahoma City.