Breast reconstruction is a surgery to reform or create a new breast shape. It may be performed at the same time as mastectomy or lumpectomy, but it can also be done later on. If you are going to undergo chemotherapy or radiation treatment, the reconstruction is usually postponed until you complete the treatments. The surgery can restore symmetry between the breast by replacing the skin, breast tissue, and nipple. There are two main techniques for breast reconstruction, implants or prosthetics and autologous. In some cases, your surgeon might combine both techniques to create a more natural result. Before the surgery, you and your doctor will discuss what you require and the process.
The surgery starts with a general anesthetic. When reconstructing the breast with implants, your surgeon will insert silicone or saline implants underneath the skin or muscle in the place of the previous breast tissue. During skin flap surgery, your surgeon will take tissue from other parts of your body and move it to your chest to rebuild the breast. The tissue mostly comes from the abdomen, but it may also come from the buttock, thigh, or butt. Note that skin flap surgery is very complex, and there are two methods to perform this surgery: free flap and pedicle flap.
Breast reconstruction surgery takes between one to six hours. Immediately after the surgery, you will stay in a recovery room for about two to three hours. You may be required to stay in the hospital for one or three days, depending on which technique you underwent. Follow-up checkups are required to monitor your health as well as to remove stitches and drainage tubes, so you will need to stay in the area for at least fourteen days after the surgery. In general, the recovery period takes between three to six weeks, but you will need to wait two months before resuming your normal activities. The success rate is 98% for flap reconstruction surgery and around 94 to 96% for implants.