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Breast Reconstruction Surgery - What Happens?

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When considering breast reconstruction surgery it is of utmost importance that you understand the procedure and how it will work. This can also determine whether you are happy with going ahead with the surgery, as well as pointing out what results are realistic expectations.

What will happen?

You will find that your procedure will take place under general anaesthetic. You will be asleep throughout surgery and will feel no pain. Once you have gone under the surgeon will perform one of two procedures, as there are mainly 2 procedures which surgeons will use. These are

Prosthetic reconstruction

This procedure requires implants to be fitted to reconstruct the breast. This procedure is the shorter of the two, and implants which gradually increase in size over a period of 6 months are used. You may also have implants called tissue expanders, these are able to be filled over a duration of time to create a natural shape, these are often used temporarily to regain the sixe of the breast, and once the size is satisfactory a permanent implant will be fitted. This method of surgery will usual take between 1 and 3 hours and will require a hospital stay of around 3 days, remember everyone is however different so your stay may be shorter or longer depending on circumstances.

Autogenous reconstruction

This procedure is often referred to as attached flap and free flap it requires that tissue is obtained from elsewhere on the body. The tissue can be removed from various places such as the buttocks, the thigh, the navel and the abdomen, this tissue is then used to build up a natural shape to the breast. As this tissue is alive your breast will naturally change shape over a period of time, this will give you a much more natural looking breast.  Your tissue will either be removed completely and placed into the chest and then reattached to blood vessels (free flap), or it will be moved to the chest whilst still attached to its initial blood vessels (attached flap), this allows the tissue to adapt naturally. This surgery can take up to 6 hours as reattaching blood vessels is a complex procedure which requires time and concentration. You will be given an approximate time to expect once your method of reconstruction is decided upon. Surgery can take between 1 to 6 hours, depending on the procedure which you are undergoing.

Once your breast has settled in size you may need to have additional surgery to match the reconstructed breast with your natural breast, which can include enlarging or reducing the size of your other breast, once these procedures have taken place and you are happy with the outcome you may have surgery to reconstruct the nipple.

How is my breast moulded?

You will find that your surgeon will use your other breast to match up your new breast in size and shape. You can also expect that as your implant or tissue will naturally change shape and adjust there may be a slight difference in size but the surgeon will allow for this change to occur and will match as closely as possible your reconstructed breast to your expectations and requests or to your other natural breast. You may find that additional surgery is needed once the reconstructed breast settles in shape and size; this additional surgery can also be performed on your natural breast sop that a match is made with both of your breasts.

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Guide to Breast Reconstruction Surgery