Breast reconstruction is the complex process of restoring a natural, symmetrical appearance to the chest following a mastectomy. The procedure is also helpful for women who lack breasts due to a congenital or developmental abnormality. While a reconstructed breast will never look and feel exactly like the breast that was removed, reconstructive surgeons strive to create a new breast and nipple that resemble the woman’s natural breast as best as possible. Dr. Swail uses his skill and experience to create a breast that comes as close as possible to the shape, size, and position of natural breasts.
In some cases, a mastectomy or radiation therapy will leave insufficient tissue on the chest wall to cover and support a breast implant. Almost always, when a breast implant is used for breast reconstruction, a flap technique or tissue expansion is necessary to build up enough tissue in the breast to support the weight of the implant. A full examination prior to breast reconstruction will help determine whether a flap technique will be necessary to create the desired results for reconstructed breasts.
Breast Reconstruction Procedure
There are multiple procedures and techniques designed to treat individualized circumstances. Depending on the amount of correction needed, Dr. Swail designs a personalized plan for each breast reconstruction procedure to produce the best results possible.
Flap techniques are designed to reconstruct the breast by harvesting muscle, tissue, and skin from “donor areas” on the body. There are multiple techniques that harvest reconstructive tissue from different areas of the body, and which techniques are utilized will vary depending upon the amount of correction necessary.
- TRAM flap: Harvests muscle, tissue, and skin from the abdomen. The harvested reconstructive tissue can remain attached to the original blood supply and tunneled up through the chest wall. In some cases, the harvested tissue will be detached and shaped into a breast mound.
- Latissimus dorsal flap: Muscle, tissue, and skin is harvested from the back, keeping it attached to the original blood supply. The harvested tissue is then tunneled to the mastectomy site.
Tissue expansion is another option for breast reconstruction that offers a shorter recovery time than a flap technique. The disadvantage to this procedure is that it may require office visits for four to six months. An expander is placed in the chest wall, and will need to be gradually filled through an internal valve in the skin. Once the tissue has been expanded to the desired result, a second surgery is necessary to replace the expander with a breast implant.
Breast Reconstruction Results
While breast reconstruction will never create an exact match for the look and feel of breasts that were previously removed, Dr. Swail works diligently to create the most natural look and feel possible.
Dr. Swail meets with each patient personally to discuss their desired results and expectations prior to each breast reconstruction procedure. This allows Dr. Swail to design a customized procedure to achieve great, long-lasting results. Prior to the surgery, Dr. Swail discusses the different techniques and procedures to determine which options will deliver the best results for each individual patient.