Ask the Doctor – Can I Have Large, Under Muscle Implants Replaced With Smaller Ones? Will This Make Them More Comfortable?

This week, Richard M. Kline, Jr., MD, of The Center for Natural Breast Reconstruction answers your question about breast reconstruction.

Question: I’ve had my breast tissues removed and I now have implants. They are under my muscles, too large and very uncomfortable. Is there anything you can do to fix this and make a smaller implant? I am very unhappy with the way my breasts look, This is contributing to already very low self-esteem issues. Can you help me? What are my options?

Answer:  There is an excellent chance that we can help you. The country is currently undergoing a paradigm shift in implant-based breast reconstruction, with more and more surgeons placing the implants in front of the muscle, rather than behind. This allows for numerous potential advantages, and few disadvantages. We have been converting patients with unsatisfactory sub-muscular reconstructions to reconstructions in front of the muscle for a few years, with generally good-to-excellent results.

Another option is to remove your implants and re-build your breasts only with your own natural tissue, usually from tummy or buttocks. This is a larger operation than implant reconstruction but obviously results in an even more natural result.

I would be happy to discuss your situation further with you by phone, if you wish, or see you in my office when convenient.

Thanks for your question.

Have a question about breast reconstruction or post-surgical you’d like answered from our surgical team? Just ask!

Ask the Doctor – Can My Latissimus Flap Reconstruction Surgery Be Reversed?

This week, Dr. Kline, of The Center for Natural Breast Reconstruction, answers your question about breast reconstruction.

Question: I had that flap reconstruction 4 years after my mastectomy. That was 8 years ago. I’m in constant pain from the pulling in my chest. I hate that I can no longer paddle my canoe or swim.

I’m also having continued back problems that require the use of a chiropractor.

Can this procedure be reversed? I did not have any radiation or chemotherapy.

Answer: What type of flap did you have? It would be very unusual for a free tissue transfer (such as DIEP) to cause pulling, but not so unusual for pedicled flaps like a latissimus (or even a TRAM).

If you did have a latissimus, it could quite possibly be revised to improve your symptoms.

If you had a DIEP, it would require a little more investigation. Please let me know, and I’ll try to give you a more precise answer. I’d also be happy to chat with you by phone, if you wish.

Inquirer’s Response:

I believe it was a latissimus.

They used a portion of muscle from the side of my back, just a few inches lower than the armpit. The breast has also shifted slightly so that it isn’t centered in the chest anymore and is closer to the armpit.

In addition to the pulling pain in the chest, I’m having severe pain in the upper back, shoulders, and neck. I’ve also had recurring numbness and tingling in the hand and sharp pain shooting down my arm.

The chiropractor says that the realignment of the muscle will mean a forever battle of trying to keep the spine aligned and not pinching the nerve.  

Having the latissimus procedure is a huge regret for me. I wish I’d just had an implant.

The other breast just had a lumpectomy, rather than a full mastectomy. I have a small implant on that side that has never caused me any issues.

I want to know if the latissimus can be reversed and have an implant put in.

Answer from Dr. Kline:

I’m sorry you’re having so much trouble. That actually isn’t the norm for latissimus flaps, but it certainly can happen, as you know.

The latissimus can be transferred with or without dividing its motor nerve (thoracodorsal), and with or without dividing its attachment to the humerus (arm bone).

If the breast is shifting away from the center, that’s an indication that it may still be attached to the arm bone. If you have spasms, or intermittent pulling pain, it could be because the nerve isn’t divided, and the muscle is still functioning.

This doesn’t bother most people, but it definitely bothers some.

Sharp pain shooting down your arm (especially the inside of the upper arm) could indicate compression of the intercostobrachial cutaneous nerve, which lies in that area.

Offhand, I can’t think of an obvious anatomical explanation for your hand numbness and tingling, however.

Three muscles, the pectoralis major, the teres major, and the latissimus dorsi all attach to your upper arm bone at about the same place, and all pull the arm towards your body, but they each pull from a slightly different angle.

The latissimus is now rearranged to pull from the same angle as the pectoralis major. Usually, this does not cause a problem, but that’s not to say it never does.

It’s not really practical to actually “reverse” a latissimus flap, in the sense of putting it exactly back where it was. The flap can certainly be removed, however, and it is not at all unreasonable to think that that might help your symptoms.

In addition to perforator flap breast reconstruction, we also do implant reconstruction, but we shifted to placing the implant exclusively in front of the muscle about three years ago.

This can result in some visible rippling, but it has multiple benefits, including lack of animation deformity when the muscle is contracted, less chance of the implant coming out of position, less damage to the pectoralis muscle, and less discomfort.

Successful placement in front of the muscle is made possible by completely or nearly completely wrapping the implant in acellular dermal matrix (preserved skin, such as “Alloderm”), which heals to the tissue around it, and provides support.

While it may often be a very prudent decision to travel to see surgeons with extensive experience for complex procedures such as perforator flaps (DIEP, sGAP, PAP, etc.), simply removing the latissimus and placing an implant (or a tissue expander initially, which can be safer) requires no unusual skill, so I would recommend that you first consult your previous plastic surgeon, or another in your geographic area.

I would still be happy to speak with you about your situation, however, if you wish.

Have a great weekend, and thanks for your inquiry.

Have a question about breast reconstruction or post-surgery you’d like answered from our surgical team? Just ask!



Ask the Doctor – I Have Implants But They Feel Horrible And My Reconstruction Looks Terrible. Is There Any Hope After Reconstruction?

This week, Richard M. Kline, Jr., MD, of The Center for Natural Breast Reconstruction answers your question about breast reconstruction.

Question:  I have implants. Do not like them they feel horrible and my reconstruction looks terrible. Is there any hope after reconstruction. I have appointment 2/23/2018.

Answer:  Fortunately, your previous unfortunate experiences with implants in all probability do not affect our ability to get you a satisfactory reconstruction using only your own tissue.

I look forward to meeting with you!

Have a question about breast reconstruction or post-surgical you’d like answered from our surgical team? Just ask!

Ask the Doctor – Do You Have Experience Replacing Silicone Implants When a Patient is Having a Reaction to Them?

This week, Richard M. Kline, Jr., MD, of The Center for Natural Breast Reconstruction answers your question about breast reconstruction.

Question: Do you have experience replacing silicone implants when a patient is having a reaction to them?

Answer:  Thank you for your question.

We have extensive experience replacing implants when patients find them uncomfortable. Most of our experience is with patients who have had mastectomies and reconstruction, but the experience translates to patients who have had cosmetic breast augmentation, as well.

There are many reasons for patients to have problems with implants, some of which we understand, and some of which we probably don’t (yet).

Sometimes the problem can be as simple as the implants have ruptured, and replacing them may solve the problem. While this is very common with older implants (> 25 years old), rupture is much less common with modern gel implants, although it can happen.

Until very recently, breast implants for augmentation were placed exclusively under the pectoralis muscle. We abandoned this approach and started placing implants in front of the muscle (a more anatomically correct location) about three years ago. This is made possible by completely wrapping the implants in Alloderm, which provides strength and padding. Advantages of pre-pectoral (in front of the muscle) placement include less pain, no animation deformity, and a more natural appearance. The primary disadvantage is an increased likelihood of seeing “rippling” in some case. Fat grafting also sometimes necessary to maximize the final appearance. Encouraged by patient acceptance in these cases, we recently starting converting patients with previously placed submuscular implants to pre-pectoral implants. The results thus far, though early, have been very good, with most patients telling us “they feel more like breasts now.”

Of course, not all problems with implants are simply due to submuscular placement. Some people get painful hardening (capsular contracture) regardless of implant position, although the complete Alloderm wrap minimizes the chance of this occurring. Some people just don’t react well to having large foreign objects in them, without being able to narrow down the precise cause further, and these people may not tolerate implants at all. In these situations, if the implants were placed for reconstruction, we have the option of completely removing the implants and replacing them with your own natural tissue taken from your abdomen, buttocks, thighs, etc. This is obviously much more involved than just replacing implants, but the quality of the result is much more natural than an implant reconstruction, and problems after completion of reconstruction are extremely rare..

Any of these techniques could potentially be used for problems after cosmetic breast augmentation, but would involve significant out-of-pocket costs, as insurance will generally not usually cover procedures to correct problems from cosmetic surgery.

I hope this helps some. I would be happy to discuss your situation further with you by phone (1-866-374-2627), or see you in the office whenever convenient.

Have a question about breast reconstruction or post-surgical you’d like answered from our surgical team? Just ask!

Ask The Doctor – Is it Prudent to Remove the Expanders?

This week, James E. Craigie, MD, of The Center for Natural Breast Reconstruction answers your question.

Question: I had bilateral nipple sparing mastectomies on 2/9/16 and developed a large necrotic area on the lower pole of my left breast. Air expanders and Alloderm were placed during the surgery and I have also developed redness over the area where the Alloderm is on my right breast. I have been on Keflex 250 mg qid since surgery and Levaquin was added yesterday, 2/26. My surgeon plans to debride the necrosis and perform a skin flap on Friday 3/4. Of course there is no staging of the area under the necrosis at this point. (It turned dusky the day after surgery.)

But I am keen to avoid two surgeries. My questions are these: In your opinion, is it prudent to remove the expanders, allow time for healing and then consider latissimus flap on the left? Under that circumstance, what options are there for healing the wound after debridement? Would closing good skin to good skin be best (I understand distortion is a given) and then flap it later? I will have to be referred for flap surgery and am trying to do diligence on who best to request for this. I am grateful for any advice you might be willing to offer.

Answer:  I’m sorry to hear that you are having a difficult time. From what I can gather from your question it sounds like you have had a difficult time with both breasts. On your left side the healing would be less complicated if you had the expander removed. On the right side if you have an infection then it is possible that the implant may have to be removed.

If the implants are removed then when you have healed you may consider using your own skin and fatty tissue instead of trying another expander. We specialize in breast reconstruction using your own fatty tissue without using implants and without sacrificing your important muscles. That includes the latissimus muscle. I suggest you ask your surgeons if you can consider that route as an option.

I’m sorry I can’t be more specific without more information from you about your situation, previous surgeries and medical history. If you would like more information I could have my office contact you for specifics. Just let me know. Thank you for your question.

Have a question about breast reconstruction or post-surgical you’d like answered from our surgical team? Just ask!

Ask the Doctor-Can You Fix a Bilateral Mastectomy Gone Wrong?

This week, James E. Craigie, MD, of The Center for Natural Breast Reconstruction answers your question.

Question:  Can you fix a bilateral mastectomy gone wrong? My breasts are now hideous to look at and I’m ashamed of my body now. They are lopsided and not even and I’m left with a 2 inch scar across my entire chest.

Answer: It is difficult to know what we might be able to do for you with the information you gave us, but usually something can be done to at least make things somewhat better.

Many of our patients had multiple prior surgeries elsewhere before we met them, and we were able to help many of them. We would be delighted to have one of our clinical staff members to call you to discuss your situation in more detail, if you wish.  Simply call 1-866-374-2627 or e-mail and we can get that arranged for you.

Have a question about breast reconstruction or post-surgical you’d like answered from our surgical team? Just ask!

3 Common Breast Reconstruction Questions

Undergoing breast reconstruction surgery is a life-changing event.

It’s a decision that often requires multiple doctor’s consultations and lots of personal reflection after a battle with breast cancer.

And even after all that time spent planning, researching the best doctors, and doing your homework, it’s possible that you might walk out of a reconstructive surgery and be unhappy with the results.

It’s heartbreaking, and we hate to see women suffer through this.

That being said, there’s a lot that can be done to help repair reconstructive surgeries that didn’t go as planned.

And thanks to innovative technology and our amazing surgeons at The Center for Natural Breast Reconstruction, our team can often help women achieve their reconstructive goals in order to feel beautiful and confident once again.

Are you feeling disappointed after a reconstructive surgery?

If so, we encourage you to take a look at some of the most common questions we get from women who are looking for reconstructive help to see how we’ve been able to help them in the past.

Chances are, if you have similar issues, we’ll be able to help you, too!

Check it out…

QUESTION 1: Is It Possible to Do Repair and Nipple Reconstruction Surgery at the Same Time on the Same Breast?

Not long ago, we received the following question from a prospective patient…

Question: I had hybrid DIEP reconstruction at another facility, and I am disappointed with the results. There have been many issues.

For example, my breasts are different shapes and sizes, no node involvement and no microinvasion. The surgeon who did the mastectomy said the path report said the margins were not wide enough and he will need to cut additional skin out during the next surgery.

The next surgery is supposed to be to reconstruct the nipple. Can you do both procedures on the same breast at the same time? Please Help!”

Here’s our response…

Answer: “I’m sorry you are having to go through this.If your margins were positive and you had an immediate DIEP flap, that could be a little complicated to resolve, although I’m sure we could work through it.

Reconstructive surgery can be different for every patient that we encounter. However, many times it is possible to do both at the same time. The best way to determine what method will work best for you is to come in for an evaluation.”

QUESTION 2: I’m Unhappy with My Reconstructive Result from Another Surgeon – Are You Able to Make It Look More Natural?

The question we received was…

Question: “Three years ago, I had a double mastectomy and am now cancer free. My plastic surgeon did a terrible job with the reconstruction. The left side implant is way off to the outer side and looks larger than the right side.

The right side is way too far to the outside. There is zero cleavage.

Is there any way to reposition the implants more to the natural position of the breast? I do not expect perfect but don’t like looking like a botched job. Thank you.”

Our response is as follows…

Answer:  “I’m glad to hear you have been cancer free and have your treatment for breast cancer behind you. At The Center for Natural Breast Reconstruction, it is part of our mission to help women move on with their lives after breast cancer. We focus our efforts on helping women get their bodies back together with permanent, natural results.

I’m sorry you are disappointed with your reconstruction. If you have had radiation, then it may be very hard to have your breasts match with implant reconstruction. If you have not had radiation, then perhaps your implants could be revised or adjusted for an improvement.

Unfortunately, these corrections are all too often temporary. It is possible that using your own fatty tissue would be a more permanent option without implants.

Sometimes it is hard to start over with another approach, but it may be necessary if you desire a more natural and permanent result. So, the answer is yes–it’s likely that we CAN help you achieve a more natural look.

If you would like more information about natural breast reconstruction with your own tissue, let me know.”

QUESTION 3: I Am Unhappy with My Previous Bilateral Mastectomy with Reconstruction Using Implants. Are You Able to Fix It?

Question: “I’m not happy with the results of my bilateral mastectomy with reconstruction using implants. Reaching out to see if it can be fixed.”

Answer:  “It is very likely that we could help you with your unsatisfactory reconstruction. This problem can often be fixed either by using your own tissue, or by revising your implant reconstruction.

I will be happy to discuss your situation and provide you with some options.”

Looking for options to improve your breast reconstruction results? Give us a call at 1-866-374-2627 or contact us online to find out more!

Ask the Doctor- Is It Too Late To Have Natural Breast Reconstruction?

This week, James E. Craigie, MD, of The Center for Natural Breast Reconstruction answers your question.

Question: I had bilateral mastectomies and wanted to do the natural breast procedure but the surgeon wouldn’t even discuss it. Then he totally botched the reconstruction. I look deformed. I still avoid the mirror. A redo was set but was canceled day of surgery because b/p and bipod star were elevated. I want it redone. I would like to have the natural breasts. I have plenty of abdominal tissue. I am diabetic.

AnswerI’m sorry you have had so much trouble with your reconstruction.

Fortunately, previous attempts at implant reconstruction rarely impact our ability to successfully perform a reconstruction with your own tissue. Diabetes increases your risk of some complications, most notably wound healing problems and infections, but it rarely keeps us from doing the reconstruction at all.

If you wish, we can have one of our staff call you to discuss your situation further.

Thanks for your question, and look forward to meeting with you.

Have a question about breast reconstruction or post-surgical you’d like answered from our surgical team? Just ask!

Ask the Doctor – Why Won’t Insurance Pay For Reconstruction?

This week, James E. Craigie, MD, of The Center for Natural Breast Reconstruction answers your question.

Question: I don’t understand why insurance company doesn’t pay for reconstruction if you’ve had a lumpectomy. With radiation, your breasts shrink a lot and you are all out of proportion. I finally did get them to pay for prosthesis and bra.

AnswerThat’s not always the case with a lumpectomy. If the surgery results in a significant defect or radiation negatively impact the tissue, most times we can submit your case to your insurance company along with photos of the affected area and they will indeed cover a reconstruction surgery for you.

We’re happy to chat with you about your specific situation and see what we can do to help you through that process.

Have a question about breast reconstruction or post-surgical you’d like answered from our surgical team? Just ask!

Ask the Doctor – Would Reconstruction Be Successful For Me?

This week, James E. Craigie, MD, of The Center for Natural Breast Reconstruction answers your question.

Question: I had implants put in 33 years ago, got breast cancer, had a lumpectomy, radiation, and got rock hard implants as a result. I just recently decided to have the implants removed and a great deal of scar tissue. They put in expanders that caused me to get an infection. I had to almost beg them to believe me as the pain was horrific. I had a 2nd doctor remove the expanders. I now have a very deformed left breast and a severely drooping right breast. I contacted the doctor who put my implants in years ago. He is no longer in the area but told me about this procedure.

I guess my question is if this procedure would be successful for me? I do not like the way I look, and it is painful as well. I am a teacher and would need to know the time frame this would entail. It has been a horrible summer with this ordeal. I almost wish I left the rock-hard implants in. Please let me know what you think. I am very much interested in hearing your thoughts. 

AnswerThank you very much for your question. I’m sorry you have had so much difficulty. Your situation is unfortunately quite common, but the good news is that natural breast reconstruction with your own tissue can often help dramatically. Fortunately, a history of radiation (&/or multiple failed attempts at implant reconstruction) does not at all decrease the success rate of subsequent reconstruction using only your own tissue. We have successfully reconstructed hundreds of women in your situation.

Our first choice for a donor area, if you have some extra tummy tissue, is the DIEP flap. If you do not have adequate tummy tissue, the buttocks (sGAP flap) is also often an excellent donor area.

It is important to realize that natural tissue reconstruction is not just an operation, but a process. The first operation, the microsurgical transfer of the flaps, is by far the largest. It usually takes 6-8 hours, requires a 4-day hospital stay, and a total stay in Charleston of about a week. Recovery takes approximately 6-8 weeks.

After you have healed fully from the first surgery (usually 6 months if you have been radiated), 1-2 additional surgeries are required to achieve optimum results. These are much less involved, ordinarily requiring only one night in the hospital, and you can usually go back home as soon as you are discharged.

While the process can be lengthy, once you are done, you are REALLY done. Most women reconstructed with their own tissue come to regard their reconstructed breasts as their own, and are finally able to put the issue of breast cancer behind them.

I would be happy to call and discuss your situation in more detail if you wish, and thanks again for your question.

Have a question about breast reconstruction or post-surgical you’d like answered from our surgical team? Just ask!