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    Breast reconstruction - implants

    Breast implants surgery

    After a mastectomy, some women choose to have cosmetic surgery to recreate their breast. This surgery can be performed during mastectomy itself or later.

    The breast is usually reshaped in two stages, or surgeries. During the first stage,a tissue expander is used.An implant is placed during the second stage. Sometimes the implant is inserted in the first stage.


    If you are having reconstruction at the same time as your mastectomy, your surgeon may do a skin-sparing mastectomy. This means only the area around your nipple and areola is removed and skin is left to make reconstruction easier.

    If you will have breast reconstruction later, your surgeon will remove enough skin over your breast during the mastectomy to be able to close the skin flaps.

    Breast reconstruction with implants is usually done intwo stages, or surgeries. During the surgeries, you will receive general anesthesia (asleep and pain-free).

    In the first stage:

    • Thesurgeon creates a pouch under your chest muscle.
    • A small tissue expander is placed in the pouch. The expander is balloon-likeand made of silicone.
    • A valve is placed below the skin of the breast. The valve is connected by a tube to the expander. (The tube stays below the skin in your breast area.)
    • Your chest still looks flat right after this surgery.
    • Starting about 2to 3 weeks after surgery, you see your surgeon every 1 or 2 weeks. During these visits, your surgeon injects a small amount of saline (salt water) throughthe valve into the expander.
    • Over time, the expander slowly enlarges the pouch in your chest to the right size for the surgeon to place an implant.
    • When it reaches the right size, you will wait 1to 3 months before the permanent breast implant is placed during the second stage.

    In the second stage:

    • Thesurgeon removes the tissue expander from your chest and replaces it with a breast implant. This surgery takes 1to 2 hours.
    • Before this surgery, you will have talked with your surgeon about the different kinds of breast implants. Implants may be filled with either saline or a silicone gel.

    You may have another minor procedure later that remakes the nipple and areola area.

    Why the Procedure Is Performed

    You and your doctor will decide together about whether to have breast reconstruction, and when to have it.

    Having breast reconstruction does not make it harder to find a tumor if your breast cancer comes back.

    Getting breast implants does not take as long as breast reconstruction (which uses your own tissue). You will also have fewer scars. The size, fullness, and shape of the new breasts are more natural with reconstruction that usesyour owntissue.

    Many women choose not to have breast reconstruction or implants. They may use a prosthesis (an artificial breast) in their bra that gives them a natural shape, or they may choose to use nothing at all.

    Women who have had a lumpectomy rarely need to have breast reconstruction.


    Risksof any surgery are:

    • Blood clots in the legs that may travel to the lungs
    • Blood loss
    • Breathing problems
    • Heart attack or stroke during surgery
    • Infection, including in the surgical wound, lungs (pneumonia), bladder, or kidney
    • Reactions to medicines

    Risksof breast reconstruction with implants are:

    • The implant may break or leak in the first 10 years. If this happens, you will need more surgery.
    • A scar may form around the implant in your breast. If the scar becomes tight, your breast may feel hard and cause pain or discomfort. This is called capsular contracture. You will need more surgery if this happens.
    • Infection soon after surgery. You would need to have the expander or the implant removed.
    • Breast implants can shift. This will cause a change in the shape of your breast.
    • One breast may be larger than the other (asymmetry of the breasts).
    • You may have a loss of sensation around the nipple and areola.

    Before the Procedure

    Tell yoursurgeon if you are taking any drugs, supplements, or herbs you bought without a prescription.

    During the week before your surgery:

    • Several days before surgery, you may be asked to stop taking aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), vitamin E, clopidogrel (Plavix), warfarin (Coumadin), and other drugs like these.
    • Ask yoursurgeon which drugs you should still take on the day of surgery.

    On the day of your surgery:

    • Follow your surgeon's instructions about not eating or drinking.
    • Take the drugs yoursurgeon told you to take with a small sip of water.
    • Shower the night before or the morning of surgery.
    • Arrive at the hospital on time.

    After the Procedure

    You may be able to go home the same day as the surgery. Or youwill need to stay in the hospital overnight.

    Outlook (Prognosis)

    Results of this surgery are usually very good. It is nearly impossible to make a reconstructed breast look exactly the same as the remaining natural breast. You may need more "touch up" procedures to get the result you want.

    Reconstruction will not restore normal sensation to the breast or the new nipple.

    Having cosmetic surgery after breast cancer can improve your sense of well-being and your quality of life.


    McGrath, MH, Pomerantz J. Plastic surgery. In: Townsend CM, Beauchamp RD, Evers BM, Mattox KL, eds. Sabiston Textbook of Surgery. 19th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2012:chap 69.

    Roehl KR, Wilhelmi BJ, Phillips LG. Breast reconstruction. In: Townsend CM, Beauchamp RD, Evers BM, Mattox KL, eds. Sabiston Textbook of Surgery. 19th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2012:chap 37.


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              Tests for Breast reconstruction - implants

                Review Date: 1/24/2013

                Reviewed By: Debra G. Wechter, MD, FACS, General Surgery practice specializing in breast cancer, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, Washington. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.

                The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

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