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Breast Cancer Health Center

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Breast Reconstruction

What Are the Different Reconstruction Options? continued...

Implants can rupture, causing pain and infection. You may need surgery to remove or replace them.

Tissue flap procedures use a woman's own tissue taken from the abdomen or back (or sometimes the thighs and bottom) to create a mound to reconstruct the breast. Taking abdominal tissue is called a TRAM flap. Taking tissue from the back is called a latissimus dorsi flap. Sometimes the tissue being moved is kept attached to its blood supply. Other times it’s disconnected and then reconnected to a blood supply near the new location.

You may want to consider nipple reconstruction, too. Usually, the nipple and areola (the dark area around the nipple) are removed during the mastectomy to lower the chance of cancer returning.

Nipple reconstruction is typically an outpatient procedure done with local anesthesia. You may have it after breast reconstruction is complete. This allows the new tissue to heal and settle into place. Minor adjustments in size and position of the breast can be carried out when the nipple and areola are rebuilt.

Surgeons can make a nipple from tissue taken from the back or abdominal flap. It’s then tattooed to resemble the color of a nipple.

In rare cases, the nipple from the original breast can be reattached, but only if the surgeon is convinced the tissue is cancer-free. Because of a lack of nerve connections, the nipple will not rise or flatten in response to touch or temperature.

A prosthetic nipple is another option. The plastic surgeon makes a copy of your natural nipple and colors the areola. It can be glued to the breast and re-glued every week or so.

How Long Does Breast Reconstruction Surgery Take?

Preparation for the procedure, including getting anesthesia, may take 2 hours. Once it begins, the reconstruction will take anywhere from 1 to 6 hours.

After the surgery, you'll spend about 2 to 3 hours in recovery before being transferred to a hospital room.

Recovery From Breast Reconstruction Surgery

You may have some discomfort for the first few days afterward. You’ll be given pain medication as needed. Throughout your hospital stay, the staff will closely watch you.

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