Breast Reconstruction: Implants vs. Patient's Tissue
Breast cancer is a disease that has a devastating effect on a woman’s health and well-being. For those who are fortunate enough to survive a battle with breast cancer, many are left with physical scars and deformities that can greatly impact a woman’s confidence and self-esteem. Dr. Julie Vasile is a reconstructive and plastic surgeon who specializes in restoring the shape of the breast for breast cancer patients to restore self-confidence for these brave women. For Dr. Vasile’s patients in Westchester and Fairfield, breast reconstruction can be performed using either breast implants or the patient’s natural body tissue. Dr. Vasile is happy to help patients choose a technique that best meets their unique needs and desires.
Many women who undergo breast reconstruction have breast implants placed to restore the shape and size of the breasts. Implant reconstruction will typically require two procedures. During the initial procedure, the chest pectoralis muscle will be cut and lifted off the ribs. A tissue expander implant will then be placed under the muscle. This implant is gradually filled with saline over several visits in order to stretch the skin and muscle to accommodate an implant. The pectoralis muscle usually covers the upper half of the implant very well. The upper abdominal rectus muscle or serratus muscle on the side of the chest may be cut and raised to cover the lower half of the implant. Another option is using cadaveric skin, that has been processed to remove the cellular components, to cover the lower half of the implant. The second procedure will involve placing the final implant. The implant, which may be filled with saline or silicone gel, will be placed in the pocket beneath the chest muscle. Breast implants have an average life span of about 10 years, at which point a new implant may be necessary before or after 10 years.
Autologous reconstruction involves using a patient’s own tissue, rather than an implant, to reconstruct the shape of the breast. While this procedure is less common than implant reconstruction, it is actually considered the gold standard of reconstruction surgery. This is because the technique produces results that are more natural and most closely resemble the shape and feel of the original breast. In this technique, tissue and fat is removed from other areas of a patient’s body and transferred to the chest. While the fat can be removed from multiple areas of the body, including the buttocks, thighs, or back, the most common donor site is the abdomen, which often has significant fat deposits to create breasts that are proportionate to the woman’s body. This procedure, also known as DIEP flap reconstruction, transfers the skin, fat, and small blood vessels from the abdomen to the chest in order to create a breast, or breasts. Because the nerves and blood vessels continue to grow in the new breast, over time the breast will even develop sensation (although not to the degree that was present before the mastectomy). For women who would like to most closely replicate the look and feel of the natural breasts, autologous reconstruction is highly recommended.
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There are many options to consider when it comes to breast reconstruction and these decisions involve personal feelings and preference. Dr. Julie Vasile is here to guide patients through this procedure by providing care, understanding, and information so that each patient is equipped to make an educated decision regarding breast reconstruction. If you would like to learn more about the many options for breast reconstruction, contact our practice to schedule an appointment with Dr. Vasile. We look forward to hearing from you!