Breast Reconstruction in Augusta, GA
After the loss of a breast due to surgery or illness, breast reconstruction surgery can restore a normal appearance and alleviate self-consciousness. Southeastern Aesthetic Surgery, led by Dr. Troy Austin, one of the area’s most respected plastic surgeons in the area of breast reconstruction surgery, provides excellence for residents of Augusta, Evans, Columbia County, and nearby areas in Georgia and South Carolina.
What is the goal of Breast Reconstruction?
Breast reconstruction is a procedure that restores natural-looking breasts in patients who have lost a breast due to surgery or illness. The goal of the procedure is to restore the appearance, shape, and size of the breast to resemble the patient’s natural breast as closely as possible. Breast reconstruction often improves a woman’s self-confidence and quality of life. While breast reconstruction surgery can dramatically improve a woman’s physical appearance and emotional well-being, you should maintain realistic expectations. Your newly reconstructed breasts may not feel or look exactly like your natural breast, and you may lose some sensation in the treated breast.
Why should I consider Breast Reconstruction?
Reconstruction of a breast that has been removed due to cancer or other disease is one of the most rewarding surgical procedures available today. New medical techniques and devices have made it possible for surgeons to create a breast that can come close in form and appearance to matching a natural breast. Frequently, reconstruction is possible immediately following breast removal (mastectomy), so the patient wakes up with a breast mound already in place, having been spared the experience of seeing herself with no breast at all. But bear in mind, post-mastectomy breast reconstruction is not a simple procedure. There are often many options to consider as you and Dr. Austin explore what’s best for you.
This information will give you a basic understanding of the procedure – when it’s appropriate, how it’s done, and what results you can expect. It can’t answer all of your questions since a lot depends on your individual circumstances, so please be sure to ask your surgeon if there is anything you don’t understand about the procedure.
Who is an ideal candidate for Breast Reconstruction?
Most mastectomy patients are medically appropriate for reconstruction, many at the same time that the breast is removed. The best candidates, however, are women whose cancer, as far as can be determined, seems to have been eliminated by mastectomy.
Still, there are legitimate reasons to wait. Many women aren’t comfortable weighing all the options while they’re struggling to cope with a diagnosis of cancer. Others simply don’t want to have any more surgery than is absolutely necessary. Some patients may be advised by their surgeons to wait, particularly if the breast is being rebuilt in a more complicated procedure using flaps of skin and underlying tissue.
Women with other health conditions, such as obesity, high blood pressure, or smoking, may also be advised to wait. In any case, being informed of your reconstruction options before surgery can help you prepare for a mastectomy with a more positive outlook for the future.
When should I plan for my Reconstruction Surgery?
You can begin talking about reconstruction as soon as you’re diagnosed with cancer. Ideally, you’ll want your breast surgeon and your plastic surgeon to work together to develop a strategy that will put you in the best possible condition for reconstruction.
After evaluating your health, your surgeon will explain which reconstructive options are most appropriate for your age, health, anatomy, tissues, and goals. Be sure to discuss your expectations frankly with your surgeon. He or she should be equally frank with you, describing your options and the risks and limitations of each. Post-mastectomy reconstruction can improve your appearance and renew your self-confidence — but keep in mind that the desired result is improvement, not perfection.
Your surgeon should also explain the anesthesia he or she will use, the facility where the surgery will be performed, and the costs. In most cases, health insurance policies will cover most or all of the cost of post-mastectomy reconstruction. Check your policy to make sure you’re covered and to see if there are any limitations on what types of reconstruction are covered.
Your oncologist and your plastic surgeon will give you specific instructions on how to prepare for surgery, including guidelines on eating and drinking, smoking, and taking or avoiding certain vitamins and medications.
While making preparations, be sure to arrange for someone to drive you home after your surgery and to help you out for a few days, if needed. Breast reconstruction usually involves more than one operation. The first stage, whether done at the same time as the mastectomy or later on, is usually performed in a hospital.
Follow-up procedures may also be done in the hospital. Or, depending on the extent of surgery required, your surgeon may prefer an outpatient facility.
What types of Anesthesia are used during Breast Reconstruction?
The first stage of reconstruction, the creation of the breast mound, is almost always performed using general anesthesia, so you’ll sleep through the entire operation.
Follow-up procedures may require only a local anesthesia, combined with a sedative to make you drowsy. You’ll be awake but relaxed, and may feel some discomfort.
What types of Breast Implants are used with Breast Reconstruction?
If your surgeon recommends the use of an implant, you’ll want to discuss what type of implant should be used. A breast implant is a silicone shell filled with either saline or elastic silicone gel. While there are many options available in post-mastectomy reconstruction, you and your surgeon should discuss the one that’s best for you.
The most common technique combines skin expansion and subsequent insertion of an implant.
Following mastectomy, your surgeon will insert a balloon expander beneath your skin and chest muscle. Through a tiny valve mechanism buried beneath the skin, he or she will periodically inject a salt-water solution to gradually fill the expander over several weeks or months. After the skin over the breast area has stretched enough, the expander may be removed in a second operation, and a more permanent implant will be inserted. Some expanders are designed to be left in place as the final implant. The nipple and the dark skin surrounding it, called the areola, are reconstructed in a subsequent procedure.
Some patients do not require preliminary tissue expansion before receiving an implant. For these women, the surgeon will proceed with inserting an implant as the first step.
An alternative approach to implant reconstruction involves the creation of a skin flap using tissue taken from other parts of the body, such as the back, abdomen, or buttocks.
In one type of flap surgery, the tissue remains attached to its original site, retaining its blood supply. The flap, consisting of the skin, fat, and muscle with its blood supply, are tunneled beneath the skin to the chest, creating a pocket for an implant or, in some cases, creating the breast mound itself, without the need for an implant.
Another flap technique uses tissue that is surgically removed from the abdomen, thighs, or buttocks and then transplanted to the chest by reconnecting the blood vessels to new ones in that region. This procedure requires the skills of a plastic surgeon that is experienced in microvascular surgery as well.
Regardless of whether the tissue is tunneled beneath the skin on a pedicle or transplanted to the chest as a microvascular flap, this type of surgery is more complex than skin expansion. Scars will be left at both the tissue donor site and at the reconstructed breast, and recovery will take longer than with an implant. On the other hand, when the breast is reconstructed entirely with your own tissue, the results are generally more natural, and there are no concerns about a silicone implant. In some cases, you may have the added benefit of an improved abdominal contour.
Will I require a lot of follow-up procedures after Breast Reconstruction?
Most breast reconstruction involves a series of procedures that occur over time. Usually, the initial reconstructive operation is the most complex. Follow-up surgery may be required to replace a tissue expander with an implant or to reconstruct the nipple and the areola. Many surgeons recommend an additional operation to enlarge, reduce, or lift the natural breast to match the reconstructed breast. But keep in mind, this procedure may leave scars on an otherwise normal breast and may not be covered by insurance.
What can I expect after Breast Reconstruction Surgery?
You are likely to feel tired and sore for a week or two after reconstruction. Most of your discomfort can be controlled by medication prescribed by your doctor.
Depending on the extent of your surgery, you’ll probably be released from the hospital in two to five days. Many reconstruction options require a surgical drain to remove excess fluids from surgical sites immediately following the operation, but these are removed within the first week or two after surgery. Most stitches are removed in a week to 10 days.
How long before I can return to a normal lifestyle after Breast Reconstruction?
It may take you up to six weeks to recover from a combined mastectomy and reconstruction or from a flap reconstruction alone. If implants are used without flaps and reconstruction is done apart from the mastectomy, your recovery time may be less.
Reconstruction cannot restore normal sensation to your breast, but in time, some feeling may return. Most scars will fade substantially over time, though it may take as long as one to two years, but they’ll never disappear entirely. The better the quality of your overall reconstruction, the less distracting you’ll find those scars.
Follow your surgeon’s advice on when to begin stretching exercises and normal activities. As a general rule, you’ll want to refrain from any overhead lifting, strenuous sports, and sexual activity for three to six weeks following reconstruction.
What kind of results can I expect from Breast Reconstruction?
Chances are your reconstructed breast may feel firmer and look rounder or flatter than your natural breast. It may not have the same contour as your breast before mastectomy, nor will it exactly match your opposite breast. But these differences will be apparent only to you. For most mastectomy patients, breast reconstruction dramatically improves their appearance and quality of life following surgery.
Breast reconstruction can restore a woman’s appearance and self-confidence after losing a breast due to illness, injury, or surgery. Southeastern Aesthetic Surgery is led by Dr. Troy Austin, a leading plastic surgeon in the area of breast reconstruction in and around Augusta, Evans, Columbia County and nearby communities in Georgia and South Carolina. Contact us today!