Learning About Flap Reconstruction After a Mastectomy

Published on February 15, 2019

A mastectomy is the process of surgically removing one or both of the breasts, either completely or partially. The surgery is most commonly carried out to treat breast cancer. In certain patients with high-risk of the condition, mastectomy is carried out even before the cancer appears as a precautionary measure.

Today there are various surgical options available to rebuild the breasts after mastectomy. Breast reconstruction is usually carried out during the mastectomy procedure itself or immediately after it.

Breast reconstruction can be carried out for several months or years after mastectomy or lumpectomy. During such reconstruction procedures, an artificial implant is used to give the appearance of a natural breast or sometimes a flap of tissue that is taken from another location on the body.

This process of taking tissue from one part of the patient’s own body, and repairing the breasts is known as flap reconstruction or autologous reconstruction.

Preparing For A Flap Reconstruction Surgery

You will have to make sure to consult a skilled doctor before undergoing the mastectomy surgery. During the consultation, your doctor will assess your body as a whole and carefully construct a plan to remove the breasts and subsequent reconstruction solution.

The tissue used for the procedure can be taken from many different locations on the body such as the upper and lower regions of the abdomen, the back region along the shoulder, the thighs, and buttocks.

Consulting with a plastic surgeon beforehand will give you a better idea about the final results of the procedure and thus helps you gain more of a perspective about what to expect. You will even be able to go over which area of the body will be used for the flap tissue removal.

Surgical Methods Used For Flap Reconstruction

There are two surgical ways of carrying out the autologous reconstruction procedure.

Pedicle flap surgery– This method involves the surgeon cutting some of the blood vessels along with the tissue that is to be transferred, keeping the vessels intact. The tissue is tunneled under the skin in the chest area to create a pocket for the implant.

Free flap surgery– Here the surgeons completely detach the tissue from the blood vessels and reattaches them again at the chest region. Because of the reattaching involved, free flap surgery takes longer than the above method

The reconstruction of the breasts quite often involves the reconstruction of the nipple as well. The recovery time for the surgery is about two weeks and surgeons usually prescribe a mild painkiller to deal with any discomfort.

Sometimes patients are advised to wear an elastic bandage or a special support bra to help with the swelling that happens after the reconstruction operation. There stitches involved but are usually absorbable sutures which do not require removal. There is permanent scarring with this procedure, but these scars fade over the course of time.

Contact Our Office

If you’re interested in learning more about the flap reconstruction surgery, you can learn more during a consultation with Dr. James Hardy. Contact our office to schedule your appointment today!