Breast Reconstruction

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Definition

Breast reconstruction is plastic surgery to rebuild a breast. It is usually done after a mastectomy (removal of the breast) has been done to treat 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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Reasons for Procedure

The goal of the procedure is to create a reconstructed breast that appears as similar to the natural breast as possible.

Possible Complications

Complications are rare, but no procedure is completely free of risk. If you are planning to have a breast reconstruction, your doctor will review a list of possible complications which may include:
  • 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 such as heart disease or lung disease
  • 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.

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