Throughout more than thirty years as a board-certified plastic surgeon, I’ve found that one of the most important factors in helping patients have the best possible experience is to be open with them from the beginning about what they can expect. This is especially true for breast reconstruction patients, because the reality is that most cases of breast reconstruction will require multiple surgeries in order to achieve results the patient will be happy with. Your surgical process depends on a number of factors, but perhaps the most significant is whether you choose to use a breast implant, or your own natural tissue, or both.
Because of the amount of breast tissue which needs to be removed during a mastectomy, most patients who choose to have their breast(s) reconstructed using a breast implant will need to begin with a tissue expander. This is a device which is similar to an empty breast implant, and is placed within the breast to be gradually filled and enlarged so that it slowly expands the skin and tissue in order to make room for the breast implant. The first surgery (which may or may not occur during mastectomy) involves placing the tissue expander, and a second surgery several months later is then required to replace the tissue expander with the permanent breast implant.
Multiple Surgeries for Breast Reconstruction Using Your Own Tissue
The other option is to use your own tissue (usually muscle, fat, and sometimes skin from your abdominal area) to recreate the breast – a category of methods known as autologous breast reconstruction. In many cases, achieving the patient’s ultimate goal of feeling more like themselves and more confident in their appearance will require two or more surgeries. The first procedure is typically the most extensive, in which the breast is actually forming, while future surgeries are used to make adjustments and enhancements to create a more attractive and natural-looking appearance.
Additional Surgeries for Any Method of Breast Reconstruction
Regardless of whether you choose breast implants or your own tissue to reconstruct your breast, you will likely have the option to undergo an additional surgery for nipple reconstruction. And, while uncommon, there is also a risk of complications which may require future surgeries, such as revising the appearance of the abdomen after autologous reconstruction or resolving capsular contracture with a breast implant.
Though breast reconstruction can be a multi-step process, it is one which has given countless women the ability to once again feel confident in their appearance and live their lives as survivors, and I am honored to have performed these empowering surgeries for thousands of women. If you would like to get started on your breast reconstruction journey, schedule a consultation with me, Dr. Franklyn Elliott. Or, for more information and plastic surgery tips, follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.