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 – Would I Be A Candidate For DIEP Flap Surgery After Previous Expanders Are Removed And Will You Accept VA Insurance?

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

Question: I had a bilateral mastectomy with reconstruction and I am terribly dissatisfied with my care so far. 11 Months later, the expanders are still painful. I will be asking to have them removed this week.

I have 2 questions for you. After I  have the expanders removed would I still be a candidate for the DIEP flap? I am still going to chemo (Herceptin) which will run until the end of November, provided there are no more setbacks. My second question is, do you accept VA insurance? One form of payment is through the VA another is Veteran’s Choice. I am not sure which would cover outside care. I look forward to your response.

Answer: I’m sorry you have had so much trouble, but there is a very good chance that we can help you.

Your previous unfortunate experience with expanders does not in any way decrease our ability to successfully reconstruct you with DIEP flaps. The blood vessels which we use to vascularize your flaps are well below the area where tissue expanders are placed, and we have successfully reconstructed literally hundreds of patients in your situation. One potential advantage to having the expanders removed sooner rather than later is that we get an MRI angiogram on all patients who are scheduled for perforator flap breast reconstruction, and most breast tissue expanders are not MRI-compatible. If they use a little magnet to find the port before they fill your expanders, then you can’t get an MRI with those expanders in place.

We have worked with the VA many times in the past, and Gail, our insurance expert, will contact you to investigate your situation further.

Thank you very much for your inquiry, and I look forward to meeting you.

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 – 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: I am Ready for My Second Mastectomy. What are my Options and Can I do a Lymph Node Transfer at the Same Time?

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

Question: I am looking at reconstruction options after a right mastectomy in September, ready for other side mastectomy and reconstruction in June. I’m interested in lymph node replacement also.

Answer: We would be more than happy to help you any way we can. We work with several breast oncology surgeons, and routinely do immediate reconstruction with DIEP flaps, GAP flaps, or pre-pectoral implants (usually just local patients for implants, though, as they actually require more postop visits than flaps).

We usually don’t recommend doing lymph node transfer at the same time as flap reconstruction, because 1) doing the nodes at the same time entails compromises in the flap placement, the node placement, or both, and 2) placing a healthy unradiated flap will sometimes improve lymphedema by itself. We do, however, routinely incorporate lymph node transfer in second-stage flap surgeries, and that has worked nicely from a technical standpoint.

I would be happy to chat with you more about your options, or see you any time you would like to make an appointment.

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

“A Learning Experience” In HIS Words

by:  Richard M. Kline Jr., M.D.

learning is a giftI think the biggest thing I learned was how important it is to have providers you trust when you are facing surgery. For me, this was relatively easy, as my wife worked with these people all the time, and I found them immediately likeable when I met them. But how is a lay person to know who to place their trust in? I think the initial step is selecting your surgeon. He or she should immediately look you in the eyes, really listen to everything you say, answer questions honestly, and never be afraid to say “I don’t know.” I think it can help if they have already operated on people you know (as I mentioned, this surgeon had operated on my Dad), but that’s usually not going to be the case. Once you have found a surgeon you trust, the rest should start to fall into place, because they will select the best team they can to help them take care of you. As it turned out, my surgery took longer than expected because it they couldn’t do it laparoscopically, and had to “open me up.” This bothered my surgeon, but it didn’t bother me. I had trust in my team, and felt that however it worked out, it was for the best.

 

I also noticed that, by and large, everyone I came in contact with on the day of my surgery seemed to be “tuned in” to how I was likely feeling at an unusually vulnerable time. I had previously lacked firsthand experience of the importance of that empathy to patients.

 

I think that I also gained some appreciation for how the patient can sometimes contribute to a good outcome. I think my preoperative efforts to lower my blood pressure and improve my overall fitness were helpful.  On the morning of surgery my blood pressure was normal, and I think my postoperative course might have been a little easier because I was in a little bit better shape due to the exercise.

 

And I will still prescribe to my patients those Lovenox shots, because I care about their safety – but I will do it with much more sympathy.

Hey doc how are you

Recovery daze…..

By:  Richard M. Kline Jr., M.D

 

pain scaleI woke up and wasn’t sure where I was. I thought about it a while, and finally asked. A nurse said “the recovery room.” I asked how long I had been there, and she said “30 minutes.” I asked how long the surgery took, and they said “about two hours”. I knew this was longer than was planned, but I didn’t worry about it, as I felt pretty intact. They asked what my pain was on a scale of (0-10), and I said “3.5.” She asked if I wanted some Dilaudid, or if I wanted to go back to the room without it. I said I wanted it, so they gave me 1 mg i.v. While the pain hadn’t been terrible, it was significant, and the Dilaudid did a great job of reducing it. It didn’t get rid of it completely, but it did produce a kind of “warmth” that made me not care too much about the residual pain.

I then went back to the same room I’d been in before surgery, and stayed only briefly before deciding I was ready to go home. When I got up to get dressed, I immediately got nauseous. The bubbly i.v. specialist nurse was there again, and she came over and held an alcohol wipe to my nose until the nausea went away. Then home I went, happy that it was over, and not feeling too badly.

For the first few days it hurt to get out of bed. I would lie there thinking about getting up for several minutes, planning the best way to do it, and only then proceeding. Once I was up, though, moving around wasn’t bad.

About two weeks postop, I noticed that coughing or sneezing didn’t make my incision hurt any more. I started walking on the treadmill at the gym. It hurt a little, but not bad. After that, I started to forget about the surgery.

The final installment of this 4 part series will post April 30.

Surgery Day (and other tidbits)

hospital sign

By:  Richard M. Kline Jr., M.D

My wife took me to the hospital at 6 a.m., and I sat in the preoperative waiting room with the other surgery patients. Eventually my name was called, and I was taken by a female technician to a room to be weighed. I wanted to say “NOT FAIR!” when she weighed me with clothes, shoes, and cell phone, but I realized it didn’t really matter. Next she took me to a private preoperative room, handed me a gown, and told me to take off “everything”, use the bathroom, and put on the gown. This was definitely unsettling, as I’m not used to taking off my clothes in front of strangers, but I realized I was going to have to comply if I was going to get through this. As I put on the gown, I couldn’t help but think about Jack Nicholson with his butt sticking out of his hospital gown in “Something’s Gotta Give.” After I had changed, the young lady returned, and directed me to lie on the stretcher. She then announced she had to “remove my hair,” and mentioned that others would be coming to check her work. I was a little surprised because plastic surgeons have learned that there is really no need to remove hair before surgery, but the last thing I wanted to do at this point was upset the routine. As I lay there trying to be calm while she trimmed my lower abdomen and groin with clippers, she chatted pleasantly, asking at one point if I wanted the “full Brazilian wax.” After she finished, her female supervisor came in, lifted my gown and inspected the job, then told her to trim another inch of hair off the bottom.  After this was done, I got a short reprieve, after which a third woman came in and “checked my prep” again. At this point, I was starting to get over being inspected, and just wanted to move forward.

Another nurse, the self-proclaimed “i.v. specialist,” entered. She was very bubbly and chatty (perhaps even more so after I told her I was terrified of needles). She complained about me grinding my teeth when the local anesthetic went in my hand, but after that I didn’t even feel the i.v. catheter go in, which was a relief. At that point I thought I was safe, but then she pulled out a syringe, smiled, and said “Lovenox!” That needle went into the left side of my freshly prepped abdomen. I didn’t realize until then that Lovenox burns going in. Ouch.

At last I was prepped, and my wife was allowed in. What a relief to see her again! Soon the anesthesiologist came in to see me. I’d never met him, but I knew my wife worked with him frequently and thought highly of him. He was very calm and matter-of-fact, exactly what I wanted. The surgeon then entered for the final preoperative visit, confirmed the procedure, and marked the surgical site. He was calm and reassuring.

Before they wheeled me from the preoperative room to the operating room, they gave me a dose of i.v. Versed, to “take the edge off.” This was a good thing, as the process of being wheeled down to the O.R. in a stretcher was, for me anyway, surreal. I’m usually the one pushing people down these hallways – this was too weird! As the team wheeled me down the hall I said “this is a very different vantage point from down here,” and they all agreed. Once we got in the OR, they had me move myself from the stretcher onto the table. The oxygen mask went over my mouth and nose, and the last thing I remember was the slight burn of the Propofol anesthetic going into my hand and wrist.  —Lights out—

(Part 3 of this series will post April 23)

The Doctor is Out…..

the doctor is outNo worries – he’s back already!  Dr. Kline shares with us his personal experience as a surgical patient and what he has learned from being on the other side of the exam table that will enhance the personal care of his own patients.

“The Doctor is Out” is part 1 of this 4 part series.  Enjoy and have a happy day! – Gail

Three weeks before my surgery, everything was fine. I felt good, a little heavier at 56 than at 26, but still hale and vigorous. Then, while operating late one afternoon, I felt a pain in my groin. “Probably just too much strenuous exercise,” I thought, and dismissed it. It didn’t go away. The next day, it was worse. I felt a bulge. DAMN. I had a hernia.

The whole concept of needing to get treatment, instead of needing to deliver it, was foreign and unsettling. For decades I’d been used to helping other people. Now, whether I liked it or not, I was potentially going to have to sit down and let others help me.

I called the same general surgeon who fixed my 86 year old Dad’s hernia last year (why did mine have to come 30 years sooner?). He told me there was no danger in watching the hernia for a while, and that if I wanted to try and lose some weight it might get better, but it was a long shot.  As it turned out, I didn’t actually have time to try and lose weight, because it started to get worse hurt towards the end of long workdays. I turned over all my long cases to my partner, and I started looking for the soonest, least disruptive time I could find to get it fixed.

I greatly respect the people I work with daily, but I didn’t want to have surgery at the hospital where I usually worked, because I wanted things to be as routine as possible for everyone. I felt that it would be much less stressful on me (and probably everyone else) if I wasn’t in an environment where I was used to giving the orders.

Fortunately for me, my wife is a surgeon, and she regularly works at a hospital I rarely visit. I thought this might be the best place to go – my wife could kind of “watch over” things, but I would not know anyone involved in my care personally.

When I visited the surgeon for my preoperative appointment, he examined me and confirmed that I did in fact have a hernia.  We discussed options, and decided to attempt a laparoscopic repair of the hernia. He advised me that it might turn out that it was too difficult to do the surgery laparoscopically, and that they might have to “open me up.” I assured him that after 20+ years of practicing surgery, I was well aware that things are not strictly predictable, and I asked him to please do whatever he felt he needed to at the time. This was the first time I started to “loosen up” a little bit, and I was actually kind of glad that it would be him, and not me, worrying about the details in surgery that day.

I also found out in his office that I had high blood pressure, for which they put me on medication. I began to limit my salt intake, and cut back on calories. Fortunately, jogging did not aggravate the hernia, so I also increased my aerobic exercise until two days before surgery. Yes, I was “in training” for this.

On the night before surgery, I went to bed early, woke at 2 a.m., and didn’t sleep the rest of the night.

(Part 2 of this series will post April 16)

 

10 Important Breast Cancer Facts

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Because October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we want to highlight the significance of this serious illness. Below you’ll find a list of 10 facts about breast cancer.

This post pairs well with our 10 Breast Cancer Fundraising Ideas post. If you want to raise money for awareness, the ideas we shared in that post will help get you started.

Now let’s go over these very important facts:

1. About 1 in 8 women born today in the United States will get breast cancer at some point. The bright side of this is women can survive breast cancer if it’s found and treated early. How? With a mammogram — the best screening test to detect signs of breast cancer.

2. Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women. Each year it is estimated that over 220,000 women in the United States will be diagnosed with breast cancer.

3. Breast cancer is the second leading cause of death among women. It is estimated that over 40,000 women will die from breast cancer every year.

4. Men get breast cancer, too. Although breast cancer in men is rare, an estimated 2,150 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer and approximately 410 will die each year.

5. Breast cancer rates vary by ethnicity. Rates are highest in non-Hispanic white women, followed by African American women. They’re lowest among Asian/Pacific Islander women.

6. Genetics have a role in breast cancer. Breast cancer risk is approximately doubled among women who have one first-degree relative (mother, sister, or daughter) with the disease. On the other hand,more than 85 percent of women with breast cancer have no family history.

7. Breast cancer risk increases as you get older. Even though breast cancer can develop at any age, you’re at greater risk the older you get. For women 20 years of age, the rate is 1 in 1,760. At 30, it significantly jumps to 1 in 229. At 50, it’s 1 in 29.

8. It’s the most feared disease by women. Yet, breast cancer is not as harmful as heart disease, which kills 4 to 6 times the amount of woman than breast cancer.

9. The majority of breast lumps women discover are not cancer. But you should still visit your doctor anyway, even though 80% are benign.

10. There is so much HOPE! There are currently more than 2.5 million breast cancer survivors in the United States alone — and this number continues to climb each year.

It’s important to understand the facts about breast cancer, and learn how you can support loved ones and friends who are suffering from this illness, or have been affected by it. To learn more about breast cancer, you can download a PDF about the last 2013-2014 breast cancer facts from cancer.org.

To learn more about our mission, our practice, and our team, start here and meet our doctors.