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Breast Cancer Health Center

Breast Reconstruction Surgery

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Complications of Reconstructive Surgery

While they are designed for durability, on rare occasions, a breast implant may have to be replaced due to leakage or rupture. Studies show a 5% to 10% incidence of implant ruptures after 10 years. If a saline implant ruptures, it deflates and the body absorbs the salt water. 

Another possible complication with implants involves the body's tendency to form a protective covering of scar tissue around the implant. Called "capsular contracture," it results in the implant feeling too firm. In this situation, an operation may be required to correct it. 

Infection may also develop after implant surgery. In some cases, the implant will need to be removed for several months until the infection gets better. A new implant can be inserted once the infection is completely cleared. 

Flap procedures can be complicated by infections that can usually be treated with antibiotics.

Although relatively uncommon, the usual complications associated with surgery, such as bleeding, fluid collection, poor healing, excessive scar tissue, or difficulties with anesthesia, may occur. These complications, should they occur, can be treated in the hospital.

How Long Does Breast Cancer Surgery and Reconstruction Last?

Combined breast cancer surgery and reconstruction may take up to seven hours; however, the actual surgical time may be about three to four hours. 

The first part of the surgery involves surgery preparation, delivering anesthesia, and the removal of the cancer. This may take approximately two hours. After this, the plastic surgery team takes over to perform the reconstructive procedure. This may take one to three hours. 

Following surgery, you will spend approximately two to three hours in the recovery room before being transferred to a hospital room. 

What Is Recovery From Surgery Like in the Hospital?

For the first few days after surgery, you may feel some discomfort.  Your doctor will prescribe pain medicine to control your pain, as needed. Throughout your hospital stay, your recovery will be closely monitored.

Soon after surgery you will be asked to move your arms, but not for any forceful activities. Nurses will help you get in and out of bed. The day after surgery you may be allowed to sit in a chair. On the second day after surgery, most patients are walking without assistance.

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