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Breast reconstruction

PURPOSE:

Includes several plastic surgery techniques that attempt to restore a breast appearance afer unilateral or bilateral mastectomy. If only one breast is affected, it alone may be reconstructed. In addition, a breast lift, breast reduction or breast augmentation may be recommended for the opposite breast to improve symmetry of the size and position of both breasts.

Breast reconstruction is a physically and emotionally rewarding procedure for a woman who has lost a breast due to cancer or other condition. The creation of a new breast can dramatically improve your self-image, self-confidence and quality of life. Although surgery can give you a relatively natural-looking breast, a reconstructed breast will never look or feel exactly the same as the breast that was removed.

INTERVENTION:

Breast reconstruction is a highly individualized procedure. You should do it for yourself, not to fulfill someone else’s desires or to try to fit any sort of ideal image.

Surgery for your breast reconstruction is most often performed in a hospital setting, involving different specialists, possibly including a short hospital stay, and your doctor will likely use general anesthesia.

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.

A TRAM flapuses donor muscle, fat and skin from a woman’s abdomen to reconstruct the breast. The flap may either remain attached to the original blood supply and be tunneled up through the chest wall, or be completely detached, and formed into a breast mound.

A latissimus dorsi flap uses muscle, fat and skin from the back tunneled to the mastectomy site and remains attached to its donor site, leaving blood supply intact.

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.

A breast implant can be an addition or alternative to flap techniques.

Following your surgery for flap techniques and/or the insertion of an implant, gauze or bandages will be applied to your incisions.

An elastic bandage or support bra will minimize swelling and support the reconstructed breast. A small, thin tube may be temporarily placed under the skin to drain any excess blood or fluid. Healing will continue for several weeks as swelling decreases and breast shape and position improve.

As a final step is the nipple areola complex reconstruction that will fulfill the natural appearance of your new breast.

The final results of breast reconstruction following mastectomy can help lessen the physical and emotional impact of mastectomy.

RECOVERY:

Over time, some breast sensation may return, and scar lines will improve, although they’ll never disappear completely. There are trade-offs, but most women feel these are small compared to the large improvement in their quality of life and the ability to look and feel whole.

Careful monitoring of breast health through self-exam, mammography and other diagnostic techniques is essential to your long-term health.