A doctor has suggested breast reconstructive surgery. The recommendation may be because of a mastectomy or injury to your chest, and you may wonder if it will help you feel “normal” or even beautiful again. Reconstruction of the breast is a major plastic surgery procedure that has helped countless women feel whole again. Dr. Leo Lapuerta has more than two decades of experience in plastic surgery and breast surgeries. He has performed thousands of operations to enhance and reconstruct the breast.
Contact us today to learn more about our plastic surgery procedures, or to schedule a consultation today.
What is Reconstructive Breast Surgery?
Breast reconstruction surgery is a procedure performed to recreate the breasts after a mastectomy, lumpectomy from cancer, or other injuries to the breast. This procedure can take one or more surgeries to achieve final results. Various techniques may be used, including the option of silicone or saline implants. The surgeon may also take tissue from your stomach, back, or thigh to create a new breast.
Many decisions must be made before each reconstructive surgery. You may decide to have the breast surgery right after the mastectomy or wait until months or years later. You may need surgery to reconstruct one or both breasts.
Types of Breast Reconstruction Surgery
Two main types of reconstruction surgery exist. First, there’s the flap reconstruction. Flap reconstruction takes tissue from another part of the body, which is usually the stomach, the back, or thigh, because it has more fat tissue to form a new breast. In some cases, the flap is moved while staying connected to its blood supply. In other cases, the flap must be reconnected to the blood supply in the chest.
Using an implant is the other type of reconstructive breast surgery. The implant may be placed under the chest muscle or above it. In some instances, the surgeon uses a saline-filled expander until the skin expands enough to cover the implant.
You may need to have your nipple reconstructed as well if the surgeon wasn’t able to save your original one. Skin from another area of the body can be formed into a nipple.
What Happens Before Breast Reconstruction Surgery?
Before you have breast reconstruction surgery, the surgeon will discuss your options and procedures with you. They will consider your age and overall health as well as your mastectomy. The doctor will determine if you have enough tissue to recreate the breasts.
The doctor will perform a complete examination, taking measurements of your breasts and photographs. They will ask about medications you are taking and other health issues. You may need to stop taking certain medications before the procedure.
If you still need chemotherapy or radiation, you may need to wait on your reconstructive surgery. The surgeon will ask about your goals for the surgery to help ensure you achieve the desired results.
What Happens During Breast Reconstruction Surgery?
You will have your breast reconstruction in a hospital with general anesthesia. If you have decided to have reconstructive breast surgery at the same time as a mastectomy, your surgeon will perform the mastectomy first.
The surgeon will put the implant in place based on the type of procedure you decided on in your consultation. If you are using the flap procedure, the surgeon will begin by removing tissue from the determined location.
The surgeon may insert a thin tube under the skin in your chest to allow for drainage. The tube will drain any excess fluid and blood during recovery, which helps you heal faster. Once it is no longer necessary, the tube is removed.
What Happens After Breast Reconstruction Surgery?
You will likely have to remain in the hospital after breast reconstructive surgery. It may take a week before the doctor is ready to send you home. You will be given a surgical bra. It will provide support to your new breasts to ensure they heal and to reduce swelling.
You may need to take prescription pain medication or over-the-counter painkillers. As the pain subsides, you will be able to transition from prescription to OTC medication for pain management. The doctor will give you recommendations to help with recovery, such as sleeping on your back and instructions on how to change your bandages. You will also have restrictions on activities. Typically, it is recommended to avoid strenuous lifting or physical activity for at least six weeks. How long you will be under restrictions will depend on what procedures were done and how quickly you heal.
It’s possible that the surgeon will recommend follow-up surgery for breast augmentation or reduction if you have one breast reconstructed. The additional surgery will help ensure the new breast matches the other one. Continue to follow up with your doctor as cancer can return, even with breast reconstruction.
Risks of Reconstructive Breast Surgery
Breast reconstruction surgery can give you confidence in your appearance again. You may feel more comfortable in your clothing and swimsuits. As with any surgery, there are risks. For breast reconstruction surgery, the main risks include infection and bleeding.
You may find that you have almost no sensation in your breast, but they might regain some sensation around the skin in time. However, you shouldn’t expect it to feel the way it did before the mastectomy. Some complications you should be aware of include the following:
- Blood clots
- Bruising and scarring
- Issues with the implants, such as wrinkling and ruptures
- Weakness at the donor site or pain with a flap procedure
- Necrosis, death of the tissue with a flap surgery
- Breasts that look or feel different
Learn More About Breast Reconstruction Surgery
Dr. Leo Lapuerta is a triple board-certified plastic surgeon with extensive experience in breast surgery, including breast revision. To find out more about reconstruction or to learn if you are a good candidate, contact us today.