Restores the appearance of breasts that have been surgically removed because of cancer or other diseases. Breast reconstruction can help a woman’s breasts look balanced while wearing a bra, permanently regain breast contour, and to give the convenience of not needing an external prosthesis.
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Usually, 1 to 2 hours. Due to microsurgery required to reconnect blood vessels, flap reconstruction surgeries (see under “Technology” and “Related articles”) will take longer.
Loss of normal sensation to the breast, though some feeling may return.
May take about 6 weeks to recover from a combined mastectomy and reconstruction or from a flap reconstruction alone. Most scars fade over time, but may take a few years to lighten. Scar revision surgery can sometimes be an option, depending on the patient's circumstances.
Bleeding, fluid collection, excessive scar tissue, infection, and problems with anesthesia. The breast implants (like the ones used in breast augmentation) can shift or leak, requiring its removal. Using an implant carries a remote risk of infection or capsular contraction, a condition that makes the scar, implant, and breast feel hard. Capsular contracture may be treated with additional surgery to remove the scar tissue. With any flap procedure, there is risk that it may not reattach well to blood vessels, block blood flow and reject the flap.
Permanent. Usually require follow-up procedures.
New technology and techniques have made it possible for surgeons to recreate a new breast that closely matches a natural breast. A patient’s own body tissue is used in various operations known as a TRAM, DIEP and EARLi procedures. Breast reconstruction often takes place immediately after a breast is removed (mastectomy) while the patient is still under anesthesia.