Immediate breast reconstruction surgery begins at the time of your mastectomy. After your general surgeon removes your breast tissue, your plastic surgeon will begin reconstructive surgery. When you wake up from surgery, you will either have a breast mound or be in the initial stages of creating a breast mound. There are 2 procedural possibilities if you elect to have immediate reconstruction with an implant: one-stage and two-stage breast reconstruction.
Immediate Reconstruction with a Breast Implant: procedure and product options
One-Stage immediate breast reconstruction is a procedure in which your plastic surgeon places a breast implant immediately after your general surgeon removes any cancerous breast tissue. Women who have had a nipple-sparing mastectomy (wherein the nipple is not removed), leaving the majority of the breast skin, may have the possibility of one-stage reconstruction.
Two-Stage immediate breast implant reconstruction involves a combination of procedures to gradually create a place in your chest tissue for the breast implant to occupy. Two-stage implant reconstruction using a tissue expander followed by placement of a permanent implant is the most common type of implant-based reconstruction and allows for the most flexibility in shaping the breast. In the first stage of the two-stage reconstruction process, an implant called a tissue expander is placed by your plastic surgeon after your general surgeon completes your mastectomy. This tissue expander is subsequently filled with sterile saline in an outpatient, clinic setting. Your surgeon will increase the volume in the tissue expander over time. This causes the surrounding tissue to stretch and eventually re-grow the skin that was initially removed with the mastectomy, allowing a surgeon to recreate a desirable breast shape. The tissue expander is finally replaced with a breast implant some months later.
One additional option is that your plastic surgeon may decide to place a dual function implant that is a combination tissue expander/breast implant. This dual function implant is filled with little to no volume initially. Fluid is then gradually added in a simple office procedure after your surgery - similar to with the process of filling a tissue expander. Once your desired breast size is achieved, the mechanism used to fill the implant is removed in the office. The dual function device ultimately serves as your permanent implant, avoiding any need for an additional operation to exchange the expander for the permanent implant.
Often the amount of skin remaining in the breast area after the mastectomy determines whether reconstruction with an implant can be performed in 1 or 2 stages. For example, a complete mastectomy removes the greatest amount of skin (of all the types of mastectomy) and will most likely necessitate the use of two-stage reconstruction. Your surgeon will discuss which type of implant reconstruction is best for you.
Potential Advantages of Immediate Breast Reconstruction (i.e. having reconstruction at the time of the mastectomy)
- You may find it easier to cope with the mastectomy knowing that you will wake up with a breast mound - either a completely reconstructed breast or well into the process of restoring your breast.
- You may save money, spend fewer days in the hospital, and have fewer days recovering from surgery when you combine the beginning of your reconstruction surgery with your mastectomy procedure.
- You may have the potential for a one-stage breast implant reconstruction (because the breast skin is preserved), instead of the two-stage process that is necessary for delayed reconstruction (because delayed reconstruction occurs after the mastectomy and after the breast skin has contracted and lost its shape).
Potential Disadvantages of Immediate Breast Reconstruction Surgery
- The initial operative time and recovery period may be longer when breast reconstruction is performed in conjunction with your mastectomy.
- There may be a higher risk of complications occurring after surgery if other treatments, such as radiation therapy, are combined with reconstruction. These complications could include, but not limited to, infection, opening of the incision, and capsular contracture (scar tissue forming around the implant). These complications are associated more with the use of adjuvant therapy (particularly radiation therapy) than with the timing of reconstruction (immediate vs. delayed). Your surgeon can assess whether or not you are at a higher risk for these complications.
It is important to understand that any breast reconstruction surgery (with or without breast implants) may require multiple procedures. Your surgeon may also recommend a procedure that provides better symmetry or balance between your breasts. These symmetry procedures for the unaffected breast can include breast augmentation with an implant, breast reduction (reduction mammoplasty), or a breast lift (mastopexy).
You may additionally desire to have nipple reconstruction. These minor, outpatient procedures help recreate your pre-mastectomy breast appearance. A variety of different techniques are used for these procedures. You should discuss your options with your plastic surgeon for best results.
The exact number of procedures and estimated recovery times will vary for every woman. Your general surgeon, plastic surgeon, and oncologist should work together as a team to plan your individual reconstructive process. As a reminder, it is important for you to know that the Women’s Health and Cancer Rights Act, a federal law passed in 1998, ensures your right to have these types of symmetry procedures and nipple reconstruction covered by your health insurance provider.
Immediate Reconstruction Product Options
Once you have chosen to have immediate breast reconstruction surgery, deciding which products to use to achieve your desired results is the next step in your unique reconstruction journey. Immediate breast reconstruction may be performed using a tissue expander and breast implant, breast implant alone, or a combination tissue expander/breast implant. Continue reading to learn more about your implantable options.
MENTOR® Tissue Expanders
Tissue expanders are used in two-stage immediate breast reconstruction surgery to expand the skin and create a shaped pocket for the implant to occupy. After your general surgeon removes your breast tissue, your plastic surgeon will insert the unfilled tissue expander. Over time, sterile saline fluid is added by inserting a small needle through the skin into the tissue expander’s filling port. As the tissue expander fills, the skin over the expander begins to stretch. The tissue expander is removed when your breast tissues can accommodate the breast implant you and your care team have selected. Click here for more detailed information about the different types of tissue expanders.
MENTOR® Breast Implants
Breast implants can be used during both one-stage and two-stage immediate breast reconstruction surgery. A breast implant is a sac (implant shell) made of silicone elastomer - filled with either silicone gel or saline fluid - that is surgically implanted under your breast tissue or under your chest muscle to increase breast mass. Mentor offers silicone and saline implants that adhere to the highest standards of safety on the market today. For a thorough comparison of MENTOR® Saline and Silicone Breast Implants please continue exploring here.
When choosing the right breast implant for you, it is also important talk to your reconstructive surgeon about the following additional factors: size, profile, and texture. Together, you and your surgeon will select the options that are best suited to your body. Click here for more detailed information about the different types of breast implants.
SPECTRUM™ Post-Operatively Adjustable Saline Breast Implant
Many one-stage immediate breast reconstruction surgeries involve the placement of a single implantable product that combines the functions of a temporary tissue expander with those of a long-term saline breast implant. The volume of the combination expander/implant can be adjusted post-operatively over a period of several months, until your desired size is achieved. Click here to learn more about SPECTRUM™ Post-Operatively Adjustable Saline Breast Implants.