Breast reconstruction is a surgical procedure to rebuild a woman's breast contour after it has been surgically removed (partial or complete mastectomy) due to cancer or other diseases. The goal of breast reconstruction is to provide symmetry and a natural-appearing breast. Immediate reconstruction at the time of mastectomy is preferred, but each patient is treated on an individual basis in coordination with their general surgeon and oncologist. This procedure helps patients:
- Keep their breasts balanced (size and symmetry)
- Regain their self-confidence
- Avoid using an external prosthesis
The Center for Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery offers comprehensive surgical procedures for breast reconstruction. Experienced surgeons use leading-edge technology and world-class surgical techniques.
Skin Expansion and Implant Insertion
A common technique used to reconstruct the breast involves expanding the skin underneath the breast removal site. Surgeons insert a balloon expander and a tiny valve mechanism beneath the skin and chest muscle. Through the tiny valve, salt-water solution is used to fill this balloon over a period of weeks or months to give the breast its new shape. After the breast has expanded to the appropriate size and shape, a permanent breast implant is inserted.
Tissue Flap Surgery
Another common technique to reconstruct the breast is called flap reconstruction. Once the proper implant is set in place, surgeons use tissue flap taken from the patient's back, tummy, hip or buttock to reconstruct the breast.
- TRAM flap is a procedure that takes extra tissue skin and muscle from the lower abdominal wall to create a breast shape
- A latissimus dorsi flap procedure removes muscle and skin from the patient's back when extra tissue is needed
- A DIEP flap procedure takes fat and skin from the same area as the tram flap (excluding muscle) in order to form the breast mound
- Gluteal free flap is a procedure that takes tissue from the gluteal of the buttocks to create the breast shape
Following surgery, patients are likely to feel tired, some pain and discomfort. Other complications may include bleeding, excessive scar tissue, fatigue and infection. Surgeons prescribe medication or use other methods to resolve these issues. Surgeons may also recommend additional surgical procedures to reconstruct the nipple and the areola.