Breast reconstruction is a surgical procedure designed to restore the size and shape of the removed breast. Breast reconstruction is typically done after a mastectomy (complete removal of the breast). Breast reconstruction is never done after a partial breast removal such as a lumpectomy or a breast biopsy.
The procedure is typically done by a plastic surgeon.
Breast reconstruction can be done with implants or the use of muscle flaps. Some women do not want extensive surgery and want an easier alternative method. Breast reconstruction with implants is not complicated and much easier compared to use of muscle flaps.
The most common type of breast implant available today for breast reconstruction is the saline filled implant. The device has an external shell or covering made from silicone. The implant is then gradually filled with saline.
The other popular device for breast implant is the silicone filled implant. It also has an outer covering made from silicone and filled with silicone gel. Concerns regarding silicone gel implants over the past two decades have limited their use but lately there has been resurgence in their use. Todate, there is no scientific evidence that silicone implants are a health hazard.
There are numerous other types of breast implants currently in clinical trials.
One-stage immediate breast reconstruction; in some cases the breast implant is placed right after the mastectomy has been completed. The surgery is done under the same anesthesia and does not require any new skin incisions.
Two-stage immediate or two-stage delayed reconstruction. Sometimes immediate breast reconstruction is not possible. This may be due to several reasons but the most common is that there is not sufficient tissue available to reconstruct the breast. In cases where the tissue is not adequate, a implanted tissue expander may be used. This device is placed underneath the skin an acts like a balloon. Through a tiny valve, the expander is gradually injected with saline and allowed to expand. The expander stretches the skin over the next few months. When enough skin has developed, a permanent breast implant is inserted.
There are some important factors for you to think about when deciding to have implants:
- Despite what the manufacturers of the implants claim, no implant lasts a life time. The majority will last anywhere from 10-15 years, these implants are fragile and can rupture, leak, perforate or harden anytime and will require replacement.
- No implant is risk free. All implants have some side effects and complications. The complications include:
Some of the minor complications can be observed but if the complications are major, severe distortion of the breast may occur- thus requiring removal of the implant