Plastic surgery: what to expect with breast reconstruction

Last Modified: 10/17/2019

breast reconstruction

For most, breast reconstruction is a very personal choice. It can be a welcomed boost to someone’s self-confidence after recovering from an illness or trauma, but it can also be a source of severe anxiety. If you’re planning to have breast reconstruction surgery, it’s important to be prepared. In this post, we asked Kevin Berning, MD, PPG - Plastic Surgery, to answer some frequently asked questions about the various types of breast reconstruction surgery available, what to expect in recovery and the potential risks involved.

What are some scenarios when breast reconstruction is recommended or utilized?

There are several reasons that someone would need breast reconstruction surgery, but some of the most common scenarios include breast cancer, Poland’s syndrome (poor or absent breast development), and severe injury to the breasts such as burns or trauma.

What are the various approaches or methods?

Everyone is different, and depending on your circumstances there are many factors that could help determine the best option for you. There are two main techniques that may be utilized during breast reconstruction surgery:

  • Implant Reconstruction - Inserting an implant that's filled with saline (saltwater) or silicone gel.
  • Flap Reconstruction - Using tissue transplanted from another part of your body (such as your belly, thigh, or back). Autologous reconstruction also may include an implant.
What can a patient expect on the day of surgery?

Most breast reconstruction surgeries are performed on an outpatient basis. There is rarely a need for a hospital stay. Even after a mastectomy and breast reconstruction, most patients can discharge and go home the same day.

What can a patient expect during recovery?

Breast reconstruction is a major surgery and warrants rest. Most patients will experience a range of discomfort for several days. Within a week, however, most patients can expect to do lighter activities and work their way up to normal actions within 3 to 6 weeks. After surgery, we follow our patients closely and insist on seeing them on a weekly basis throughout their recovery period and as they start the healing process.

What are some differences a woman should expect after surgery?

Patients must remember that reconstructed breasts will not be an exact match or be a perfect resemblance of the person’s natural breasts. Patients can also expect numbness of the breast tissue. Some areas will have permanent numbness, however, with time, some sensation may return.

Any complications that would require follow-up?

After surgery, we like to follow our patients closely to monitor and prevent any problems that could arise. Some patients can experience delayed healing, but it is rare to need further surgery for any complications.

What should a patient take into consideration when contemplating the procedure?

The biggest consideration would be the patient knowing their reconstruction options before surgery and where they would like to see themselves when the procedures are complete. This can often help the patient have more realistic expectations for their breast once all is said and done.

For more information on a specific procedure, we recommend you consulting your physician or plastic surgeon to discuss what options may be right for you.

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