Reconstruction of the breast may be the result of injury, disease such as cancer or other congenital reasons. After a breast has been removed through mastectomy, it is often decided that breast reconstruction can be carried out at the same time.
There are two main methods that breasts are reconstructed surgically: using breast implants or using living tissue taken from the same person to rebuild the breast.
When using breast implants, the procedure almost always requires the use of tissue expansion. This process stretches the remaining skin to prepare for a permanent implant later. There are many different types of tissue expanders and your surgeon will help you decide which is best for you. Once expansion is complete, a permanent breast implant replaces the tissue expander. There is a new procedure which uses expandable breast implants which eliminates the need for a two stage process as the expander remains as the permanent breast implant.
When using living tissue there are several options, the most common involves harvesting the tissue from the abdomen commonly referred to as the TRAM flap procedure. In this procedure, a portion of skin, fat and muscle is removed from the lower abdomen and transferred to the reconstruction site. The tissues are then used to reconstruct the breast.
Recovery time: For implant reconstruction - most regular activity can be resumed after 1 week and strenuous activity after 3 to 4 weeks.
For living tissue reconstruction - It usually takes 2 to 3 weeks for patients to return to regular daily activities and 6 to 8 weeks for a full recovery.