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Breast Reconstruction After Surgery

Breast Implants

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In this kind of surgery, a reconstructive plastic surgeon puts a substance or object in the body as a prosthesis (implant). The implant is filled with either saline (salt water) or silicone gel. It is put under your skin or chest muscle to build a new breast-like shape. While this shape looks like a breast, you will have little feeling in it because the nerves have been cut.

The breast implant can be inserted at the time of the mastectomy or at a later date. The timing depends on individual preference and whether the radiation therapy or chemotherapy is required after surgery.

In general, breast implant surgery is a simpler procedure than surgery using tissue flaps.

Breast implants do not last a lifetime. If you choose to have an implant, chances are you will need more surgery later on to remove or replace it.

Implants can cause problems such as breast hardness, breast pain, and infection. The implant may also break, move, or shift. These problems can happen soon after surgery or years later.

According to Johns Hopkins Medicine: "Implants are best for women with small- to moderate sized breasts, younger women with resilient skin and good muscle tone, very thin women without enough of their own tissue for flap surgery, and those who don’t want scarring at another site....we generally avoid implants in patients with planned or prior radiation."

If a patient does not have enough skin to cover a breast implant of sufficient size to match the healthy breast, there is a two step operation. First the surgeon inserts a balloon-like device called a tissue expander under the skin and chest muscle. A saline solution is then injected into the tissue expander at regular intervals for a period of weeks to months until the overlying skin is stretched sufficiently to create a pocket for the breast implant. Once this is accomplished, the tissue expander is removed and the implant is inserted. This can take 4 to 6 months.

For more information about implants, see the FDA website offsite link or call the FDA at 800.638.2041.

For information about how to choose a plastic surgeon, click here.

NOTE: If the implant creates a breast with more upper fullness than the other breast, a breast lift on the remaining breast will make them look the same.

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