Skip to Content

  • Print
 
E-mail Form
Email Results

 
 
Print-Friendly
Bookmarks
bookmarks-menu

Breast reconstruction - natural tissue

Transverse rectus abdominus muscle flap; TRAM; Latissimus muscle flap with a breast implant; DIEP flap; DIEAP flap; Gluteal free flap; Transverse upper gracilis flap; TUG; Mastectomy - breast reconstruction with natural tissue; Breast cancer - breast reconstruction with natural tissue

After a mastectomy, some women choose to have cosmetic surgery to remake their breast. This type of surgery is called breast reconstruction. It can be performed at the same time as a mastectomy (immediate reconstruction) or later (delayed reconstruction).

During breast reconstruction that uses natural tissue, the breast is reshaped using muscle, skin, or fat from another part of your body.

Description

If you are having breast reconstruction at the same time as mastectomy, the surgeon may do either of the following:

  • Skin-sparing mastectomy. This means only the area around your nipple and areola is removed.
  • Nipple-sparing mastectomy. This means all of the skin, nipple, and areola are kept.

In either case, skin is left to make reconstruction easier.

If you will have breast reconstruction later, the surgeon can still do skin- or nipple-sparing mastectomy. If you are not sure about having reconstruction, the surgeon will remove the nipple and enough skin to make the chest wall as smooth and flat as possible.

Types of breast reconstruction include the following:

  • Transverse rectus abdominus myocutaneous flap (TRAM)
  • Latissimus muscle flap
  • Deep inferior epigastric artery perforator flap (DIEP or DIEAP)
  • Gluteal flap
  • Transverse upper gracilis flap (TUG)

For any of these procedures, you will have general anesthesia. This is medicine that keeps you asleep and pain-free.

For TRAM surgery:

  • The surgeon makes a cut (incision) across your lower belly, from one hip to the other. Your scar will be hidden later by most clothing and bathing suits.
  • The surgeon loosens skin, fat, and muscle in this area. This tissue is then tunneled under the skin of your abdomen up to the breast area to create your new breast. Blood vessels remain connected to the area from where the tissue is taken.
  • In another method called the free flap procedure, skin, fat, and muscle tissue are removed from your lower belly. This tissue is placed in your breast area to create your new breast. The arteries and veins are cut and reattached to blood vessels under your arm or behind your breastbone.
  • This tissue is then shaped into a new breast. The surgeon matches the size and shape of your remaining natural breast as closely as possible.
  • The incisions on your belly are closed with stitches.
  • If you would like a new nipple and areola created, you will need a second, much smaller surgery later. Or, the nipple and areola can be created with a tattoo.

For latissimus muscle flap with a breast implant:

  • The surgeon makes a cut in your upper back, on the side of your breast that was removed.
  • The surgeon loosens skin, fat, and muscle from this area. This tissue is then tunneled under your skin to the breast area to create your new breast. Blood vessels remain connected to the area from where the tissue was taken.
  • This tissue is then shaped into a new breast. The surgeon matches the size and shape of your remaining natural breast as closely as possible.
  • An implant may be placed underneath the chest wall muscles to help match the size of your other breast.
  • The incisions are closed with stitches.
  • If you would like a new nipple and areola created, you will need a second, much smaller surgery later. Or, the nipple and areola can be created with a tattoo.

For a DIEP or DIEAP flap:

  • The surgeon makes a cut across your lower belly. Skin and fat from this area is loosened. This tissue is then placed in your breast area to create your new breast. The arteries and veins are cut and then reattached to the blood vessels under your arm or behind your breastbone.
  • The tissue is then shaped into a new breast. The surgeon matches the size and shape of your remaining natural breast as closely as possible.
  • The incisions are closed with stitches.
  • If you would like a new nipple and areola created, you will need a second, much smaller surgery later. Or, the nipple and areola can be created with a tattoo.

For a gluteal flap:

  • The surgeon makes a cut in your buttocks. Skin, fat, and possibly muscle from this area are loosened. This tissue is placed in your breast area to create your new breast. The arteries and veins are cut and then reattached to the blood vessels under your arm or behind your breastbone.
  • The tissue is then shaped into a new breast. The surgeon matches the size and shape of your remaining natural breast as closely as possible.
  • The incisions are closed with stitches.
  • If you would like a new nipple and areola created, you will need a second, much smaller surgery later. Or, the nipple and areola can be created with a tattoo.

For a TUG flap:

  • The surgeon makes a cut in your thigh. Skin, fat, and muscle from this area are loosened. This tissue is placed in your breast area to create your new breast. The arteries and veins are cut and then reattached to the blood vessels under your arm or behind your breastbone.
  • The tissue is then shaped into a new breast. The surgeon matches the size and shape of your remaining natural breast as closely as possible.
  • The incisions are closed with stitches.
  • If you would like a new nipple and areola created, you will need a second, much smaller surgery later. Or, the nipple and areola can be created with a tattoo.

When breast reconstruction is done at the same time as a mastectomy, the entire surgery may last 8 to 10 hours. When it is done as a second surgery, it may take up to 12 hours.

Why the Procedure Is Performed

You and your surgeon will decide together about whether to have breast reconstruction and when. The decision depends on many different factors.

Having breast reconstruction does not make it harder to find a tumor if your breast cancer comes back.

The advantage of breast reconstruction with natural tissue is that the remade breast is softer and more natural than breast implants. The size, fullness, and shape of the new breast can be closely matched to your other breast.

But muscle flap procedures are more complicated than placing breast implants. You may need blood transfusions during the procedure. You will usually spend 2 or 3 more days in the hospital after this surgery compared to other reconstruction procedures. Also, your recovery time at home will be much longer.

Many women choose not to have breast reconstruction or implants. They may use a prosthesis (an artificial breast) in their bra that gives a natural shape. Or they may choose to use nothing at all.

Risks

Risks of anesthesia and surgery are:

  • Reactions to medicines
  • Breathing problems
  • Bleeding, blood clots, or infection

Risks of breast reconstruction with natural tissue are:

  • Loss of sensation around the nipple and areola
  • Noticeable scar
  • One breast is larger than the other (asymmetry of the breasts)
  • Loss of the flap because of problems with blood supply, requiring more surgery to save the flap or to remove it
  • Bleeding into the area where the breast used to be, sometimes requiring a second surgery to control the bleeding

Before the Procedure

Tell your surgeon if you are taking any drugs, supplements, or herbs you bought without a prescription.

During the week before your surgery:

  • You may be asked to stop taking blood thinning medicines. These include aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), vitamin E, clopidogrel (Plavix), warfarin (Coumadin, Jantoven), and others.
  • Ask your surgeon which drugs you should still take on the day of your surgery.
  • If you smoke, try to stop. Smoking may slow healing and increase the risk for problems. Ask your health care provider for help quitting.

On the day of your surgery:

  • Follow instructions about not eating or drinking and about showering before you go to the hospital.
  • Take your drugs your doctor told you to take with a small sip of water.
  • Arrive at the hospital on time.

After the Procedure

You will stay in the hospital for 2 to 5 days.

You may still have drains in your chest when you go home. Your surgeon will remove them later during an office visit. You may have pain around your cuts after surgery. Follow instructions about taking pain medicine.

Fluid may collect under the incision. This is called a seroma. It is fairly common. A seroma may go away on its own. If it doesn't go away, it may need to be drained by the surgeon during an office visit.

Outlook (Prognosis)

Results of this surgery are usually very good. But reconstruction will not restore normal sensation of your new breast or nipple.

Having breast reconstruction surgery after breast cancer can improve your sense of well-being and quality of life.

References

Burke MS, Schimpf DK. Breast reconstruction after breast cancer treatment: goals, options, and reasoning. In: Cameron JL, Cameron AM, eds. Current Surgical Therapy. 12th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2017:743-748.

Powers KL, Phillips LG. Breast reconstruction. In: Townsend CM Jr, Beauchamp RD, Evers BM, Mattox KL, eds. Sabiston Textbook of Surgery: The Biological Basis of Modern Surgical Practice. 20th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2017:chap 35.

  • Breast cancer

    Animation

  •  

    Breast cancer - Animation

    Of all the different types of cancers, breast cancer is one of the most talked about, and with good reason. One out of every eight women will develop breast cancer sometime in their life. That's why every woman should be thinking about how to protect herself from this disease. Breast cancer is cancer that forms in the breast. Usually, it begins in the tubes that transport milk from the breast to the nipple. If the cancer spreads to other parts of the breast or body, it's called invasive breast cancer. Some breast cancers are more aggressive, growing more quickly than others. Although women are 100 times more likely to develop breast cancer, men can also get the disease because they do have breast tissue. You're more likely to get breast cancer if you're over 50, you started your periods before age 12, or you have a close family member with the disease. Drinking more than a couple of glasses of alcohol a day and using hormone replacement therapy for several years also may increase your risk. The telltale sign of breast cancer is a lump in your breast or armpit. You may also notice a change in the shape, size, or texture of your breast, or have fluid coming from your nipple when you're not breastfeeding. If you notice any changes in your breasts, call your doctor. You'll probably need to have an imaging scan, such as a mammogram, MRI, or ultrasound. A piece of tissue may be removed from your breast, called a biopsy. With these tests, your doctor can tell whether you have breast cancer, and if so, determine whether or not it has spread. So, how do we treat breast cancer? That really depends on the type of cancer, and how quickly it's spreading. Your doctor may recommend that you have the cancer removed with surgery. Sometimes it's enough just to remove the lump. That's called a lumpectomy. In other cases, the doctor will need to remove the entire breast to get rid of all the cancer or prevent it from coming back. That's called a mastectomy. Other treatments for breast cancer include chemotherapy, medicines that kill cancer cells, and radiation therapy, which uses energy to destroy cancer. Women whose cancer is fueled by the hormone estrogen may receive hormone therapy to block the effects of estrogen on their cancer. Today's breast cancer treatments are better than ever. Many women who have breast cancer go on to live long, healthy lives. The outlook really depends on how fast the tumor is growing, and how far it has spread. That's why it's so important to report any changes in your breasts to your doctor as soon as you notice them. Women who are at an especially high risk for breast cancer because of their family history can talk to their doctor about taking medicine or even having surgery to reduce their risk.

  • Breast cancer

    Animation

  •  

    Breast cancer - Animation

    Of all the different types of cancers, breast cancer is one of the most talked about, and with good reason. One out of every eight women will develop breast cancer sometime in their life. That's why every woman should be thinking about how to protect herself from this disease. Breast cancer is cancer that forms in the breast. Usually, it begins in the tubes that transport milk from the breast to the nipple. If the cancer spreads to other parts of the breast or body, it's called invasive breast cancer. Some breast cancers are more aggressive, growing more quickly than others. Although women are 100 times more likely to develop breast cancer, men can also get the disease because they do have breast tissue. You're more likely to get breast cancer if you're over 50, you started your periods before age 12, or you have a close family member with the disease. Drinking more than a couple of glasses of alcohol a day and using hormone replacement therapy for several years also may increase your risk. The telltale sign of breast cancer is a lump in your breast or armpit. You may also notice a change in the shape, size, or texture of your breast, or have fluid coming from your nipple when you're not breastfeeding. If you notice any changes in your breasts, call your doctor. You'll probably need to have an imaging scan, such as a mammogram, MRI, or ultrasound. A piece of tissue may be removed from your breast, called a biopsy. With these tests, your doctor can tell whether you have breast cancer, and if so, determine whether or not it has spread. So, how do we treat breast cancer? That really depends on the type of cancer, and how quickly it's spreading. Your doctor may recommend that you have the cancer removed with surgery. Sometimes it's enough just to remove the lump. That's called a lumpectomy. In other cases, the doctor will need to remove the entire breast to get rid of all the cancer or prevent it from coming back. That's called a mastectomy. Other treatments for breast cancer include chemotherapy, medicines that kill cancer cells, and radiation therapy, which uses energy to destroy cancer. Women whose cancer is fueled by the hormone estrogen may receive hormone therapy to block the effects of estrogen on their cancer. Today's breast cancer treatments are better than ever. Many women who have breast cancer go on to live long, healthy lives. The outlook really depends on how fast the tumor is growing, and how far it has spread. That's why it's so important to report any changes in your breasts to your doctor as soon as you notice them. Women who are at an especially high risk for breast cancer because of their family history can talk to their doctor about taking medicine or even having surgery to reduce their risk.

    Talking to your MD

     
     

    Review Date: 3/12/2019

    Reviewed By: Debra G. Wechter, MD, FACS, general surgery practice specializing in breast cancer, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

    The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., a business unit of Ebix, Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
    adam.com

     
     
     

     

     

    A.D.A.M. content is best viewed in IE9 or above, Firefox and Google Chrome browser.
    Content is best viewed in IE9 or above, Firefox and Google Chrome browser.