Today more than ever, women have a choice as to what they can do regarding breast reconstruction. The two main procedures – implants and tissue flap procedures – include a range of options.
Implants can either be filled with either a saline solution (most common) or silicone gel. Depending upon the situation, one-stage immediate breast reconstruction may be performed at the same time as the mastectomy.
Here, the implant may be put in the space where breast tissue was removed or behind the chest muscles. Or, more commonly, the implant may be done via two-stage or delayed reconstruction where the surgeon implants a tissue expander.
A saltwater solution is injected to fill the expander over time, usually 4-6 months. Once the skin over the breast area is stretched, the expander may be removed and replaced with an implant or may even be left in place as the final implant. The FDA also recently approved “Gummy bear” implants. Consisting of a thick, highly cohesive silicone gel, they have a more “natural” appearance than other implants.
Tissue Flap Procedures
The two most common types of tissue flap procedures are the TRAM (transverse rectus abdominis muscle) flap, which takes tissue from the lower stomach, and the latissimus dorsi flap, which uses tissue from the upper back.
These operations require two surgical sites and leave scars where the tissue was taken and on the reconstructed breast. The newer DIEP (deep inferior epigastric artery perforator) flap procedure uses fat and skin from the belly and also the muscle to form the breast mound. This result is a “twofer” that provides a tummy tuck in addition to breast reconstruction.
Each option has advantages and risks. Your plastic surgeon will help you consider and weigh the available options.
Photo by merrick310 on Flickr