There are many options available in breast reconstruction. Your anatomy, your surgeon’s preferences, and your desired results will determine which reconstructive method is best for you.
Skin expansion with a breast implant: This is the most common method used for reconstructing a breast. Following mastectomy, a tissue expander is inserted beneath the skin and chest muscle. Over several weeks, the expander is gradually filled with a salt-water solution in the doctor’s office, stretching the overlying skin. When the skin has stretched sufficiently, the expander is surgically replaced with a more permanent implant. The nipple and the areola are reconstructed in a later procedure.
Flap reconstruction : In one method, the breast is reconstructed using a tissue flap consisting of a portion of skin, fat, and muscle that is taken from the back. The flap is still connected to its original blood supply and is tunneled beneath the skin to the front of the chest wall. The transported tissue may be bulky enough to create a new breast mound itself. Sometimes an implant will be inserted as well.
A more complex flap technique involves tissue that is removed from the abdomen and surgically transplanted to the chest by reconnecting the flap’s blood vessels to vessels in the chest region. This microsurgical reconstruction may provide a more natural and less traumatic reconstruction in many women. Additionally, this flap procedure may improve the contour of the site from which the borrowed tissue was taken. For example, a protruding abdomen may appear trimmer after tissue is taken from the area and used to rebuild the breast.
All of these breast reconstructive procedures have advantages and disadvantages. The choice of the procedure may be limited by other health factors such as weight, other medical conditions, and previous cancer therapy.