Breast reconstruction surgery can be approached using any one of a number of different methods for recreating the breast, including the transverse rectus abdominal muscle (TRAM), or latissimus dorsi flap techniques; and artificial implants and expanders. The common aim among these procedures is to reconstruct the breast, usually after one or both breasts have been removed during breast cancer treatment.
Flaps used in breast reconstruction consist of fat, skin, blood vessels, and muscle from the abdomen (TRAM), back (LD) and serve as the tissue used to recreate the breast. The flap can be designed as either a pedicle flap, which means that it is attached to its original blood supply.
Artificial implants are made of a silicone rubber shell filled with sterile saline or silicone gel. They may be selected over a flap procedure because they are less expensive and require less surgical time. Various techniques are used to place these implants. An expander can be used to expand the skin after the mastectomy until it gets to a size that is appropriate for the patient. Patients who are recommended for flap surgery may have already tried implants, or they may have an opposite breast that is difficult to match with an implant.
Who Can Undergo Breast Reconstruction?
Women who undergo breast reconstruction have usually received a mastectomy or other procedure for breast cancer. Alternatively, they may have experienced trauma to the breast or suffered an abnormality during breast development.
What Happens During Breast Reconstruction?
Breast reconstruction surgery may take place as an immediate reconstruction (IR) that is combined with the mastectomy, or delayed reconstruction (DR). Dr. Sattler will sit down with you to review your options and recommend a course of action that best suits your needs.
To give you an idea about how breast reconstruction can be conducted, let’s focus on the TRAM flap technique. In this procedure, Dr. Sattler will relocate abdominal tissue to the breast for reconstruction. The TRAM procedure is conducted in a hospital setting under general anesthesia and lasts between 4-6 hours.
Using a pedicled TRAM flap, the skin and fat are left attached to the lower portion of one rectus abdominus muscle, which are then tunneled under the chest wall to reconstruct the new breast.
Breast implants can be used to help fill out the breast as desired. Again, Dr. Sattler will discuss your goals and expectations so that your needs can be met in a manner that is also supportive of your health.
Breast Reconstruction Aftercare
In most cases, 4-5 days of hospitalization is required following a flap breast reconstruction procedure. Many patients require between 6 weeks to 2 months before they are able to resume normal activities, though the recovery process varies from individual to individual. For women receiving implants only, recovery time can be as little as 1 to 2 weeks.
Dr. Sattler is board certified in plastic and reconstructive surgery by the American Board of Plastic Surgery practicing in LA County. Please contact our office in Glendora from nearby Arcadia or Azusa if you are interested in learning more about breast reconstruction in the San Gabriel Valley area.