Ask the Doctor – What Are the Pros & Cons of Reconstructive Breast Surgery?

yellow flowers

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

Question:  What are the pros & cons of reconstructive breast surgery?

Answer: Thanks for your question. Ultimately the pros for breast reconstruction include restoration of a woman’s body following surgical removal of part or all of her breast/breasts. Surgery to remove the breast is performed to prevent or treat breast cancer. The ultimate goal of reconstruction is to restore physical well being and quality of life. Breast reconstruction using your own natural tissue provides the opportunity to achieve the most natural results. Even restoring breast sensation is possible (not guaranteed and not necessarily complete) using your own natural tissue. The cons of natural tissue are that the patient must donate the natural tissue from another part of the body. That means scars and healing in more than one area of the body. Surgery always requires down time, recovery and time away from working etc.. Also reconstruction almost always requires more than one surgery.

Breast reconstruction using implants is generally less natural than using natural fatty tissue that contains healthy blood vessels and nerves. The advantage of implant reconstruction is that surgery is not required in another area of the body and there are fewer scars in areas of the body other than the breast. Long-term, reconstructions with implants require more revisions due to implant problems and are generally less permanent than using your own tissue.

There are always individual factors and expectations that may change the pros and cons. Hopefully, this brief synopsis has answered your question. Please let me know if you would like more information.

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

Ask the Doctor – How Long Should You Have a Breast Expander In?

pink and white flowers

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

Question: How long should you have a breast expander in?

Answer: There is no “one size fits all” answer to your question.

In many cases, expansion can be achieved, and the permanent implant placed, in 2-3 months (more commonly 3).

In other cases, expansion may take longer, or sometimes other factors such as radiation may cause delays in removing the expander and placing the permanent implant. Whenever possible, however, expansion should be completed before the beginning of radiation, because the expansion of radiated skin ranges from difficult to impossible.

I do not think that having expanders in for long periods is likely to cause any lasting problem, although the chance of them deflating goes up. I met a patient recently who, for various reasons, had had an expander placed by another surgeon in place for 15 years. She appeared none the worse for it, we placed a permanent implant, and she is doing well.

Hope this helps, I’d be happy to chat with you if you wish.

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

Ask the Doctor -After Two Different Types Of Reconstruction Over The Years, What Can I Do To Regain Some Symmetry?

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

Question: I had my first mastectomy in 1991 with a tram flap reconstruction. My second mastectomy was in 2004 with an s-gap reconstruction. In the last few years, my breasts have become increasingly uneven and have shifted on my chest. Is there something I can do to my reconstructed breasts to regain some sort of symmetry?

Answer:  Without knowing any more specifics of your situation, I can state in general terms that asymmetry after reconstruction is very, very common and that there are a host of techniques which we routinely use to minimize asymmetry as much as possible. Some of these techniques are fat grafting, reduction, contour alteration, and position changing. We have currently performed almost 1700 perforator flap reconstructions, and we likely have significant experience dealing with situations very similar to yours. I would be happy to see you in consultation any time or chat on the phone if you wish.

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

Ask the Doctor – Exams Of My Implants Have Shown Nothing Wrong But Increasing Symptoms Have Me Very Worried. Is There Anything I Can Do?

Daisies

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

Question: I have pain on the side of my breast where an implant was attached at reconstruction surgery in 1987. It has always hurt but recently has become much worse. Inflammation increases with sinus and allergy problems.

The implants are still soft so my recent visit to a plastic surgeon was uneventful. As I am 75 years old, they would not remove them. MRIs have shown they are not leaking. The pain keeps me on edge thinking something is very wrong. What are my options?

Answer:  I’m sorry you are having problems so long after your surgery.

I don’t think you necessarily have to just accept your situation. You can have very bad, and painful scarring internally, especially with old implants, even if they are not ruptured. Additionally, if you are otherwise healthy, there is no reason you couldn’t have them removed, even at 75. I’m not saying that this would solve your problems (although it may), but don’t discount the option just because of your age. For what it’s worth, we have actually done DIEP flaps successfully on patients your age, and that is a much larger procedure than removing implants.

I would be happy to speak with you and discuss your situation further if you wish.

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

Ask the Doctor – Could Odd Pains In My Body Be The Consequence Of an Old Abdominal Flap Surgery Following A Halstead Radical Mastectomy?

Poppy in a feild

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

Question:  In 1987, I had abdominal flap surgery following a Halstead radical mastectomy. I keep wondering what is NOW going on in my body! When I feel odd pains I wonder if it could be repercussions of that surgery so long ago.

Answer:  Thank you for your question. If you had your surgery in 1987 and you had reconstruction using your abdominal tissue then I will assume that you had a Tram procedure. That surgery relies on partially removing the muscle from the abdominal wall. Not having the muscle in place can cause problems later in life. People can have pain or bulging of the tummy and even hernias. Of course not all patients have those problems. If your problems are in the tummy area then that is a possibility. If your problems are in the area of your breast or mastectomy then you should consider seeing a breast surgeon that specializes in doing mastectomies to make sure all is well with regard to your breast area. You could also see the doctor who follows you regarding your breast cancer history. Scaring from a “Halstead” mastectomy especially after radiation could cause aches and pains later in life. Regardless of what it might be you should definitely be seen by your doctor so they could do a complete evaluation of your symptoms. After an evaluation they could make more specific recommendations. I hope his information helps. Let me know if you have further questions.

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

 

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 – What Are My Chances With DIEP Flap Surgery After Several Failed Reconstructions With Tissue Expanders and Implants?

Sunflowers

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

Question: I have had several failed reconstructions with tissue expanders and implant. I have also been put on IV antibiotics due to a staph Infection. I am wondering what my chances are with the DIEP Flap.

Answer:  Great news! Your prior failures with implants does not in any way decrease your ability to get soft, warm breasts with DIEP flaps. Many, many, many of our patients have histories of prior failures with implants, some with (10-20) prior failed surgeries, and we have been able to successfully 99+ % of them with only their own tissue. Once the infection from prior implants is eradicated from your body (if you have been healed for at least 6 months, you can generally assume that all the prior infection is gone), then subsequent reconstruction with your own tissue carries only a minuscule fraction of the infection risk of reconstruction with implants. You didn’t mention if you were radiated, but it makes no difference, breasts reconstructed with your own tissue are still extraordinarily unlikely to have problems with infection.

We would love to chat with you and discuss your options further. Looking forward to speaking with you, and thanks for your inquiry.

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

Ask the Doctor – How Far in Advance Should I Begin Planning and Scheduling Surgery and is Travel Afterward a Problem?

Roses and orchids

This week, Gail Lanter, CPC Practice Manager, of The Center for Natural Breast Reconstruction answers your question.

Question: I had a phone consult with Dr. Kline in December and was very impressed with our conversation.  After researching several microsurgeons, I keep coming back to this center as the perfect fit for me. I had bilateral mastectomy in Jan. 2014 due to DCIS and have saline implants under the muscles. I experience constant inflammation, burning, and the right implant has “shifted” (as my PS said) and feels like it is under my armpit. Due to life situations I am not considering surgery until the end of this year or January, 2019.

How many months ahead should I contact you to schedule the surgery? Also, I’d like to talk to someone about getting insurance approval. I have BCBS of Alabama.

Is it possible to come from Decatur, AL to have this done? I do not feel comfortable using anyone closer at this point. Just worried about the travel afterwards. Thank you.

Answer:  We have many women who travel to have surgery so we know how to help you navigate that hurdle.  As far as your timeline, one thing to consider is that this is a staged procedure – typically the first stage is inpatient for 4 days and then outpatient for Stage 2 a few months later.  Sometimes a 3rd stage (outpatient or in office) if you require nipple reconstruction or further revision to get the result you desire. Taking into account your deductible and out of pocket expenses – you may want to make sure you can get all of those stages done within one plan year.  I’ll be happy to run an eligibility inquiry through your insurance plan and we can find out exactly what your benefits are so you’ll know what to expect. Insurance approval should be no problem at all as we are in the Blue Card Network for BCBS plans. Check your insurance card and see if you have a little suitcase on the front with some letters within it.  That will tell you that your plan is a member of that network. If you’d like to send me some basic demographic information i.e. full name, date of birth, address and a copy of your card, I can get that process started for you. We typically have openings within a 2-3 month time period but to reserve the date you really want, I’d choose it as soon as you know what will work for you.  We operate on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.

Here is a blog post from September discussing the stages of surgery and how we work with patients out of our area.

http://breastreconstructionnetwork.com/ask-the-doctor-how-many-trips-are-required-to-have-reconstruction-with-your-doctors/

I’ve forwarded your e-mail to Dr. Kline to discuss post- operative travel with you.    Have a great day and I’ll look forward to your reply.

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

Ask the Doctor – Do You Recommend ADM for Support? Are There Other Options?

Tulips

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

Question:  I underwent a left skin-sparing mastectomy for DCIS in 2010. I also had immediate free tram reconstruction. My entire lateral mammary and inframammary fold were removed. I have significant pain, rupturing of blood vessels on the skin and I have to wear a bra at all times. I have been told I need an ADM for support to the breast as well as tacking of mastectomy tissue to the chest wall. Is this the procedure you recommend for this or do I have other options? I need surgery ASAP.

Answer:  I’m sorry that you are experiencing these problems.

The options which you have mentioned, placement of ADM and suturing skin to the chest wall, may well be what you need, but it is impossible for me to say so definitively without first evaluating you in person. If you would like to (securely) send pictures for review this may be helpful, but, again, a final recommendation cannot be made without actually in-person assessing factors such as skin laxity (or lack thereof) and flap characteristics (consistency, shape, volume, etc). For what it’s worth, however, I have never personally encountered a patient with completely natural breast reconstruction with contour problems which required the placement of ADM to correct, but that doesn’t mean it can’t happen.

We have certainly had women travel to Charleston with complaints very similar to yours, and have successful surgery here. However, it may be worth your while to consult with other experienced surgeons in your immediate geographic area first, as the techniques we are discussing can ordinarily be competently performed by any capable plastic surgeon with significant breast reconstruction experience. If you decide to come here, however, we will be pleased to help you any way we can.

Thanks for your question, and have a great day!

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

Ask the Doctor – I Was Recently Diagnosed With Cancer. When Is The Optimal Time for Natural Reconstruction If Radiation Treatment Is Planned?

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

Question: I am a newly diagnosed cancer patient in Atlanta.  I am scheduled for a left side mastectomy a week from today.  Mammography and MRI found pretty extensive DCIS on the left side of the left breast extending to and abutting the chest wall.  I am likely to require radiation treatment because of the proximity to the chest wall.  My plan is to have a tissue expander put in at the time of surgery.  I cannot get myself comfortable with the idea of an implant although my plastic surgeon here has said I am too thin for a natural reconstruction procedure.  I am interested in revisiting this and/or maybe getting a second opinion after the mastectomy.  My question is when the optimal time for a natural reconstruction would be when radiation treatment is planned?  Should it be done at the same time as the mastectomy ideally or after radiation treatment?  Thank you.

Answer:  Hi and thanks for your question. Sounds to me like you are on track for doing things the right way. If you need radiation we would not want you to have natural tissue reconstruction until after your radiation treatment. Possibly 3 months after radiation is complete. In the meantime having the expander placed immediately after the mastectomy (same procedure). Then you can remove the expander later at the time of your natural tissue reconstruction. I would be glad to give you my opinion I frequently see patients who other doctors say they don’t have enough tissue. Frequently we can get a nice result with natural tissue. Let me know if you have other questions or would like to talk over the phone.

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