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If you’re thinking about breast reconstruction, it’s important to learn about the options and techniques available. Knowing your options can help you decide if breast reconstruction is right for you — in recovery and beyond.
Implants are devices filled with silicone or saline that help restore shape to your breasts after mastectomy. This type of breast reconstruction requires two or more surgeries and several visits after your initial surgery to prepare your body for the implants.
In the first stage of breast reconstruction with implants, a balloon-like tissue expander is placed under your skin or muscle. After you’re fully healed from this procedure, your Mercy surgeon injects saline into the tissue expander every week to stretch the skin or muscle.
In the second stage, the tissue expander is removed and replaced with a permanent breast implant.
Potential risks with implant surgery include:
You and your Mercy doctor should also discuss the following:
In autologous (or flap) reconstruction, a tissue flap containing skin, fat, blood vessels and sometimes muscle is taken from another part of your body and used to rebuild the breast.
If you’re having flap reconstruction on only one of your breasts, your Mercy doctor may recommend genetic screening for breast cancer to find out if you’re at high risk of developing cancer in the opposite breast. If another breast reconstruction is needed later, surgical options are more limited because tissue can only be taken from the abdomen once.
Flaps used for breast reconstruction often come from your abdomen or back, but they can also be taken from your thighs or buttocks. Depending on their source, they’re either pedicle or free flaps.
With a pedicle flap, the flap stays connected to the body and is tunneled under the skin to the breast area. Since the blood supply remains connected, no microsurgery is required.
A free flap is disconnected from the body and blood supply, then moved to the breast area. Microsurgery is required to reconnect the blood supply.
Types of abdominal and back flaps include:
Flaps from the thighs or buttocks are used if you don't have enough abdominal tissue to reconstruct a breast, or you’ve had major abdominal surgery. These types of flaps include:
Potential risks with autologous breast reconstruction include:
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