Breast Reconstruction

Overview

Definition

Breast reconstruction is plastic surgery to rebuild a breast. It is usually done after a mastectomy has been done to treat breast cancer. Reconstruction generally requires several stages. The first stage may be done at the time of mastectomy (immediate reconstruction) or at some point after the mastectomy (delayed reconstruction). Breast reconstruction can be done using an implant or tissue expander followed by placement of an implant. Breast reconstruction can also be done using a tissue flap taken from another part of the body.

Breast Reconstruction with Implant
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Possible Complications

Problems from the procedure are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Your doctor will review potential problems, like:

  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • Pain
  • Reactions to anesthesia
  • Fluid or blood-filled cysts in the healing breast tissue
  • Abnormal scarring
  • Painful and/or restricted arm and shoulder motion
  • Uneven appearance of breasts, due either to position or size
  • Implant may harden, rupture, or leak
  • Implant may make cancer detection (through mammogram and/or self-exam) more difficult
  • Newly reconstructed breast will not have nerve sensation
  • The need to have more surgeries, including having the implants removed

Some factors that may increase the risk of complications include:

  • Obesity
  • Smoking
  • Bleeding disorder
  • Malnutrition
  • Chronic illness or debilitation
  • Prior radiation therapy to the chest wall, which may make healing more difficult
  • Chemotherapy

Silicone-filled breast implants are not designed to last a lifetime. They typically need to be removed within 10 years. Your risk for complications increases the longer you have the implants.

SymptomsandDiagnosis

Treatments

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

Edits to original content made by Denver Health.

Click here to view an animated version of this procedure.

RESOURCES

American Cancer Society https://www.cancer.org 

Breast Cancer http://www.breastcancer.org 

CANADIAN RESOURCES

Canadian Cancer Society http://www.cancer.ca 

Canadian Society of Plastic Surgeons http://plasticsurgery.ca 

References

Nahabedian MY. AlloDerm performance in the setting of prosthetic breast surgery, infection, and irradiation. Plast Reconstr Surg. 2009;124(6):1743-1753.

Namnoum JD. Expander/implant reconstruction with AlloDerm: recent experience. Plast Reconstr Surg. 2009;124(2):387-394.

Breast reconstruction. Breast Cancer website. Available at: http://www.breastcancer.org/treatment/surgery/reconstruction. Updated February 14, 2017. Accessed September 1, 2017.