Step 1 - Anesthesia
Medications are administered for your comfort during the surgical procedure.
Step 2 -Surgical Options
Breast reconstruction can be performed either immediately or on a delayed basis. Immediate reconstruction means the reconstruction performed at the time of mastectomy while a delayed reconstruction is performed at a later date.
A. Muscle Flap Reconstruction
Reposition existing muscle, fat, and skin and create a breast mound. Sometimes a mastectomy or radiation therapy will leave insufficient tissue on the chest wall to cover and support a breast implant. The use of a breast implant for reconstruction almost always requires either a flap technique or tissue expansion. One technique uses donor muscle, fat and skin from a woman’s abdomen to reconstruct the breast. Other techniques do not use muscle but transport tissue to the chest from the abdomen or buttock. Occasionally, the flap can reconstruct a complete breast mound, but often simply provides the muscle and tissue necessary to cover and support a breast implant.
B. Tissue Expander and Breast Implant Reconstruction
Tissue expansion stretches healthy skin to provide coverage for a breast implant.
Reconstruction with tissue expansion allows an easier recovery than flap procedures, but it is a more lengthy reconstruction process. It requires many office visits over 4-6 months after placement of the expander to slowly fill the device through an internal valve to expand the skin. A second surgical procedure will be needed to replace the expander if it is not designed to serve as a permanent implant.
C.Direct Placement of a Breast Implant
Surgical placement of a breast implant alone at time of mastectomy is becoming a popular alternative in selective reconstructive cases. A breast implant may also be an addition or alternative to flap techniques. Saline and silicone implants are available for reconstruction. Your surgeon will help you decide what is best for you. In general, reconstruction with an implant usually requires tissue expansion.
Step 3 - Grafting and other specialized techniques create a nipple and areola.
Breast reconstruction is completed through a variety of techniques that reconstruct the nipple and areola.
If you have more questions about breast reconstruction surgery, take a look at our resources and education section.