Breast reconstruction is a surgical procedure to restore the normal shape and size of the breast after mastectomy. Mastectomy is a surgery to remove an entire breast to prevent or treat cancer. Breast reconstruction can be done immediately after the cancer surgery or delayed. The procedure can be done either by using implants or by tissue transfer.
Immediate breast reconstruction is the procedure in which the surgeon performs the first stage surgery to rebuild the breast during mastectomy surgery. For the procedure, a method called skin-sparing is used to save the breast skin for the reconstruction procedure. Delayed reconstruction is another type of breast reconstruction procedure. In this procedure, the reconstruction will be done only when the chest is healed after mastectomy.
There is a third option called immediate-delayed reconstruction. In this procedure, a tissue expander will be placed under the skin during the mastectomy. This is done in order to preserve the space for an implant until the removed tissue gets examined. The procedure and techniques used may vary according to the individual’s conditions and other factors.
For implant reconstruction, the surgeon inserts the implant underneath the skin and chest muscle. Implant insertion can be considered as a two-stage procedure. Expanders will be required depending whether it is an immediate or delayed reconstruction. Most of the people nowadays choose immediate reconstructions using implants.
For reconstruction procedure using tissue, a piece of tissue that contains fat, skin, blood vessels, and muscles will be taken from elsewhere in a woman’s body. This procedure, which uses tissue from the woman’s own body is called autologous tissue reconstruction. The piece of tissue used for tissue transfer is called a flap. The flap can be taken from different sites of the body. Most common among them are:
- TRAM Flap: Tissue collected from the lower abdomen area that contains muscle is called TRAM flap. It is one of the common type of flap.
- DIEP Flap: Muscle Tissue taken from the abdomen which contains only skin and fat is DIEP Flap.
- Latissimus dorsi flap: Tissue taken from the side and the middle of the back is a latissimus dorsi flap.
Implant procedure require shorter time when compared to tissue transfer. The recovery period is also shorter for implant breast reconstruction. Possible complications of the implant procedure include:
- Implant rupture
- Extrusion of the implant
- Infections and
- Pooling of the blood.
In the case of autologous tissue transfer you may experience complications such as:
- Blood clots
- Weakness and pain, etc.
The surgeon will suggest you the best follow up care for you according to the procedure that you have undergone.