It’s a surgery that leaves physical and often psychological scars. However, board certified plastic surgeons say, new medical techniques are changing the outcomes for women forced to undergo mastectomies. “As often as possible we try to provide immediate breast reconstruction, so that when the woman is going to sleep to have a mastectomy, when she wakes up she has a breast reconstruction,” says Dr. Rob Whitfield, a plastic surgeon in Austin, Texas.
Waking Up with Implants after a Mastectomy
Whitfield’s partner, Dr. Ned Snyder at the Breast and Body Center of Austin says immediate breast reconstruction is a safe option for most cancer patients. “We take a team approach so that every patient has three surgeons allocated to every procedure. That tremendously reduces our operative time which in essence reduces the recovery time.”
Breast Reconstruction Options
Dr. Snyder says removing the breast is where breast reconstruction begins. Since each patient is different, surgeons predetermine if the breast tissue will be replaced with an implant or the patients own tissue. “We’re dedicated to providing all forms of breast reconstruction for women. But we focus mainly on using their own tissue and we can do that in the form of fat grafting and we can do it in the form of flap surgery like the DIEP flap,” says Whitfield.
The DIEP flap is a technique Snyder and Whitfield have been using since 2005. The DIEP flap uses tissue from the lower abdomen to reconstruct the breast. Snyder says, “Since no muscle is removed, the recovery time is days, not weeks. For those patients who have very flat abdomens or people who’ve had a previous tummy tuck and there’s not enough tissue in the lower abdomen there are other places to remove tissue.
“My next favorite donor site or secondary choice to make a breast is usually using thigh tissue either from the inner thigh or the back of the thigh,” says Snyder. Another possible donor site is to take tissue from the buttock area. Using a patient’s tissue for reconstruction can look more natural and last longer than implants. While it may not be right for all patients- successful breast reconstruction offers more options than ever before.