What are the types of breast reconstruction?

Partial breast prosthesis

Implant-only reconstruction

  • Using a breast implant to recreate the size of your breast

Reconstruction using a flap of your own tissues

  • Rebuilding the breast using muscle, skin, fat and blood vessels from elsewhere in your body, with or without an implant.

Implant-only reconstruction

This type of reconstruction uses an artificial breast implant. It is usually the simplest type of reconstruction. It may be suitable if you are having immediate breast reconstruction or if you are having bilateral reconstruction. There are two main types of implant reconstruction:

Silicone implant (one stage)

If your breast is reconstructed using an implant on its own, a silicone prosthesis can be placed under the skin and muscle of your chest. This replaces the missing breast tissue removed at the time of your mastectomy.

It is more suitable for immediate reconstruction and if you have smaller breasts. It can be used if the type of mastectomy you had did not take all the skin away (a skin-sparing mastectomy).

Expander implant (two stage)

    The implant is like a balloon with an outer shell of silicone and a valve or port to allow saline (salt water) to be injected into it. It is placed beneath the muscle of your chest wall during an operation.

    When your wound has fully healed, your surgeon will inflate the implant every 2 to 3 weeks in the outpatient clinic. This allows your skin and muscle to gradually stretch until you are happy with the size.

    Usually another operation is needed to remove the expander, which is replaced with a permanent implant.

    Source: CRUK, Wikimedia Commons

    Reasons for choosing implant surgery

    • You prefer it
    • You have no spare body tissue to use for flap surgery
    • Your health may not allow for a bigger operation
    • You can recover quickly from this kind of surgery
    • You do not want a bigger operation involving scarring elsewhere on your body.

    Reconstruction using a flap of your own tissues

    Flaps can use muscle, fat and skin or just fat and skin taken elsewhere in your body to reconstruct your breast. The areas where the tissue is taken from can vary. For example:

    • Flap from your back – with or without an implant (latissimus dorsi (LD) flap)
    • Flaps taken from your tummy area (tray flap)
    • Flaps taken from other areas, such as your buttocks or upper inner thigh
    • Reconstruction using skin and fat (and no muscle) from your abdomen (DIEP flap)

    Flap surgeries have the advantage of giving a more natural-looking result.

    Read more about the different types of flap surgery

    For more information

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