Breast Reconstruction Overview
The process for breast reconstruction is different than that of other breast surgeries because a mastectomy is involved. This makes breast reconstruction a more complicated surgical procedure than the average breast augmentation. The mastectomy is performed first so that the breast tissue is removed. After that, your doctor will begin the reconstruction of the breast. While this can all be done in one surgery, breast reconstruction patients will need to make multiple follow-up visits to the office over the coming weeks and months to expand the new breast implants.
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Type of Mastectomy
- A Total Mastectomy is the complete and total removal of the breast tissue, nipple, and areola. Lymph nodes in the axillae area are left intact.
- A Nipple Sparing Mastectomy is a technique that is best for women who do not have tumors in the area immediately around the areola. In this method, the breast tissue is removed while the nipple is left intact.
Types of Breast Implants
Both silicone and saline breast implants are available for breast reconstruction patients.
- Silicone Implants are made of a patented cohesive gel that has a superior ability to retain shape once placed, and it has the most natural feel among the breast implant options. Silicone implants are already filled to a specific level, so the volume can’t be changed once inserted. There are a wide variety of sizing options, and Drs. Butler, Leveque, and Dr. Patterson can help every patient choose the ideal size.
- Saline Implants are composed primarily of saline that is very similar to that which occurs in the body naturally. This type of implant is generally firmer than its silicone counterpart. Saline implants are first placed in the body and are then filled to the ideal volume.
Planning Your Breast Reconstruction Surgery
Patients should plan breast reconstruction surgery with recovery time in mind. Most people need at least one full week of recovery time, so scheduling the surgery when work and personal obligations are not pressing is best.
Unilateral or Bilateral Mastectomy
A unilateral mastectomy is a surgery in which one breast is removed, while a bilateral mastectomy is the removal of both breasts. In most cases, only cancerous breasts are removed, however, there may be situations in which healthy breasts are removed if the risk of cancer development is deemed to be high.
Preparing For Your Breast Reconstruction Surgery
Preparation for a breast reconstruction surgery should begin at least a couple of weeks ahead of time. Patients will need to have blood tests to affirm that they are healthy enough for the breast reconstruction procedure. Patients should always discuss all the medications that they are currently taking with your doctor well in advance of the surgery. Some medications, including ibuprofen, aspirin, certain vitamins, and herbal supplements, should be discontinued prior to breast reconstruction. Patients who smoke should stop smoking prior to the procedure, as well.
Exercise After Breast Reconstruction
Exercise after a breast reconstruction should be approached with great caution. Light exercise is permissible, but moderate and strenuous exercise should be completely avoided for six weeks post-surgery. Allow the full six week recovery period to pass so that full healing can take place before the body is placed under stress.
Insurance covers this procedure.
- Gauze dressings can be removed 24 to 48 hours after surgery. If the incisions have been bleeding, replace the gauze with fresh dressings.
- Heavy compression garments should be worn for two weeks after surgery. Following that, medium compression garments should be used for another month. Supportive sports bras are generally a good option. Compression garments should be worn at all times, except when they are being laundered.
- Avoid showering (or any water exposure) for one full day (24 hours) following surgery. Avoid bathing for three to four weeks after surgery.
- Many patients do experience some discomfort or pain for the first two to four days after surgery. After that, the pain will begin to lessen considerably. Pain can be resolved with prescription pain medications or over-the-counter pain relievers. Use caution with narcotic medications, as they can have side effects including constipation. A stool softener or laxative can resolve this issue. Avoid scratching the incision area, and use an over-the-counter antihistamine if breasts feel itchy after surgery.
- Surgical tape should remain in place for two to three weeks. Don’t move the tape, as this can expose incisions and inhibit healing. Avoid the use of creams and ointments around the surgical tape.
Your doctor may give you additional specific aftercare instructions following a breast reconstruction surgery. Follow all of the above instructions closely for the optimal breast reconstruction result. Full healing takes time, and the final results can usually be seen around the six weeks post-op mark. Breast reconstruction is major surgery, but it provides a truly major change that patients will find well worth it.
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Meet Our Team
At Gulf Coast Plastic Surgery, we understand that the selection of a plastic surgeon is an extremely important decision for any prospective patient. We believe communication, education and individualized patient care are the foundation for creating a strong and trusting patient-physician relationship. Our entire staff is absolutely committed to providing compassionate, personalized, individual attention before, during, and after surgery. We work together to deliver the best possible aesthetic outcomes in a setting that embodies the standards and lifestyle you seek.
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