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


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

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

Ask the Doctor: Questions About Reconstruction Surgery Years After A Mastectomy

<img src="image.gif" alt=A pink rose" />This week, Dr. Richard Kline of The Center for Natural Breast Reconstruction answers your questions.

Q: I have been cancer free for 4 years, and have been very undecided about reconstruction. My surgery removed the underside of my right breast. I am very lumpy and the scar is very hard. Would I need to have a reduction in the other side or can the surgery site be repaired? I am “usually” a D in size currently. Also, is this surgery considered a “tummy tuck” type operation?

A:  You have several potential options, depending on your present physical situation, and your wishes.

I’m assuming you are radiated (please correct me if I’m wrong). With this in mind, an implant to increase the size of the right breast is not likely to work. Increasing the size of the right breast with a DIEP flap (I assume this is what you meant by “tummy tuck”) is potentially a large operation for a lumpectomy defect, but sometimes it is actually the best option.

If you don’t mind being smaller than you were, reducing the size of the left breast may well be your best (and simplest) option to get better symmetry. That’s probably all I should try to say without knowing more details about your particular situation. We’d be happy to have our nurse Chris or PA Kim call you to discuss your situation further, if you wish. Thanks for your question, and have a great day!

Q: I had bilateral mastectomy in 2011, but didn’t have insurance. Now that I do have insurance, can I get reconstructive surgery? And how do I go about it?

A:  Thanks for your question. There is no time limit to when you can have reconstruction surgery. Your next step would be to start researching what kind of procedure would achieve your goals. If you’d like a permanent reconstructive procedure, the ones we offer might be what you are looking for. We use excess tissue of your abdomen, buttock or upper thigh and transfer that along with it’s blood supply to build a new warm natural breast.

Richard M. Kline, Jr., MD
The Center for Natural Breast Reconstruction

Ask the Doctors: Listen In, Again!

Yesterday’s live call was amazing—did you miss it?

Here’s a shot of Dr. James Craigie in action, as he listened and answered questions.

If you missed the call, don’t worry!

Here’s a link to the replay:


Drs. Craigie and Kline answered your questions on a wide range of topics related to natural breast reconstruction, including:

    • Recovery issues–how long do certain procedures take
    • Aesthetic concerns—scar tissue, nipple sparing, etc.
    • More about preventive mastectomies…
  • And much more you’ll want to hear!

We are here for you. Feel free to scroll back through our comprehensive Ask the Doctor archive here on the blog, too, for more information! Or contact us anytime.

Can a Mammogram Hurt My TRAM Flap?

Can a mammogram hurt my tram flap?

This week, Dr. Richard M. Kline, Jr. of The Center for Natural Breast Reconstruction answers your questions.


Q: I have an 18-year TRAM (Transverse Rectus Abdominis Myocutaneous) flap. Recently I have found a perpendicular ridge about an inch from my sternum. It feels like a lump. I have had an ultrasound and now they want to do an MRI and an mammogram. They found nothing on the ultrasound. My concern is the mammogram. Could this cut off blood supply to my TRAM flap? I would like to ask my original doctor but he is strictly doing plastics. Thank you for your help!


A: While it’s not impossible, a mammogram is highly unlikely to hurt your TRAM flap, especially after this length of time. Certainly it is important to find out what the lump is, anyway.

Good luck, let us know if we can be of any help.


 Richard M. Kline, Jr., MD

Center for Natural Breast Reconstruction


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

Natural Breast Reconstruction: What Are My Options If I Have Scarring?

The below question is answered by Dr. Richard M. Kline of The Center for Natural Breast Reconstruction.

I lost my implants in 07 due to an infection from my lymphedema. I had both removed and didn’t have reconstruction since the prior surgery was a failure. I have scaring from radiation in 2001. I’d like to think about reconstruction again BUT afraid of failure due to the scaring. Do I have options? Really would rather not have implants, I’ve both types, didn’t like either but would accept silicon over saline.


Natural Breast Reconstruction almost certainly represents your best chance for a successful reconstruction, even with your past unfortunate experiences. If you have adequate donor tissue in your abdomen, buttocks, or thighs, there is an excellent chance that it can be used for your reconstruction. Your past surgeries and history of radiation may affect the final appearance of your breasts due to effects on your skin, but they usually have no impact on our ability to successfully transfer your donor tissue using microvascular techniques. If you’d like more info, we could have our nurse Chris call you. If you wanted to send pictures, that would also be very helpful.

Thanks for your inquiry.

Richard Kline
Center for Natural Breast Reconstruction

Have a question about breast reconstruction question you’d like answered? Just ask us!


Are You Comparing Apples to Apples When Weighing Your Breast Reconstruction Options?

We at The Center for Natural Breast Reconstruction know that the Internet is a great place to read and share information, but it is also a great place to become misinformed. Before making any decisions about your breast health, please make sure to contact a surgeon to discuss all your options and make the most informed decision you can. Keeping with the spirit of the Internet as a research tool, today’s Ask The Doctor Question comes from a discussion forum we participated in on The answer highlighted below in pink comes from our team and showcases the importance of making sure you really are comparing apples to apples when weighing your breast reconstruction options.

Q: Has anyone had a hard time with breast reconstruction after bilateral mastectomy? I had two infections in my right expander, 2 and 3 months after my surgery. The first we conquered with antibiotics; the 2nd we did not, and I had to have it removed 4 months later. I spent the last 5 months healing from that, and just last week had the expander replaced. Hoping for the best this time! But there is significant skin loss on my right side, and my surgeon wonders if there will be enough stretch to accommodate saline fills to match my other side. And of course we all wonder if THIS expander will behave itself and not get infected. Has anyone had this experience, or one similar? Thanks.

A: Why don’t you go with the DIEP Flap procedure – they use the fat and skin from your abdomen area – I have had no problems from this procedure and I have heard of a couple of people who have had issues with infection with the expanders. Find yourself a Plastic Surgeon who does the DIEP Flap procedure

A: I also had a bilateral mastectomy but had to wait 2 years before reconstruction. I also had the expanders but had no problems, maybe it was too soon after your surgery. I would not recommend a tram flap ,it just sounds like an awful surgery.

A: There is a difference between and DIEP Flap and a trans flap.
The DIEP Flap they only take the fat and skin from your abdomen nothing else – they find a good blood supply at the reconstruction site. The Trans Flap is they take your stomach muscle and pull it up through to the breast cavity and also bring the fat and skin from the abdomen area. I for sure was glad that I did not do the Trans Flap.

A: (The Center For Natural Breast Reconstruction’s Answer) The free TRAM flap sacrifices a portion of the transrectus abdominus muscle (hence the acronym TRAM) but doesn’t tunnel it up through the abdomen. The DIEP flap does not use any of that muscle to transfer the blood supply to the reconstruction site. A skilled micro-surgeon with fellowship training in muscle sparing free flap reconstruction provides a permanent reconstruction option with a successful DIEP without sacrificing needed abdominal musculature. There is A LOT of great information on the web about this and what questions you should ask to make sure you are choosing a microsurgical team who has the experience and at least a 98% success rate. Talk to ladies who have had DIEP, GAP, HIP, SIEA flaps ( but not TRAM, it’s not the same) and see what kind of downtime they have had, you’ll probably find it similar to the amount you have had with the repeated implant/expander problems. Best wishes on your research and recovery.

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




DIEP Flap Procedure: Is this covered by my insurance?

mental healthThe below question is answered by Charleston breast surgeon, Dr. Richard Kline of The Center for Natural Breast Reconstruction.

I had a double mastectomy last month and am considering the DIEP procedure. My insurance is Aetna PPO and I wanted to know if this is covered. Also, I keep reading about stage 11 follow up to do lipo on the upper abdomen so it is flat like the bottom half ( after surgery) . Is that part of the reconstruction and is it covered by insurance? Thanks


I’m almost sure we are in-network for you, but our office will let you know for sure.

We use liposuction to help correct some donor site deformities, such as bulging of the upper abdomen, or fullness of the “muffintop” areas. Often, that fat can be used as graft to enlarge the DIEP flaps, or improve little areas of asymmetry. If we place fat in the breast, we add a code for fat grafting for the insurance company, but we never bill anyone for liposuction per se.

Hope this helps, and thanks for your question.

Richard Kline
Center for Natural Breast Reconstruction

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Breast Reconstruction After Lumpectomy and Radiation

The below questions are answered by Dr. Richard M. Kline, Jr. of The Center for Natural Breast Reconstruction.

Can I have a breast reconstruction two years after the lumpectomy and radiation?

Absolutely! While reconstruction with implants after radiation (even if lumpectomy and not a whole mastectomy were performed) can often be problematic (if not impossible), the chance of getting a successful reconstruction using your own tissue is very high. In the simplest scenario, it is usually possible to use tissue from the abdomen or buttocks to simply “replace” the breast tissue lost from lumpectomy and radiation.

Alternatively, sometimes a better result can be obtained if the lumpectomy is converted to a mastectomy prior to reconstruction. Finally, if the survivor is in a high-risk group for developing another breast cancer, she may wish to consider whether bilateral mastectomy is advisable prior to reconstruction. Usually reconstructing a lumpectomy defect will require only one side of the abdomen, so if the other side is not needed for reconstruction, it will be removed for symmetry and discarded.

What tips do you share with your patients for them to achieve the very best results from breast reconstruction?

1. Have a positive attitude! Patients who are excited about their reconstruction frequently do very well and tolerate any “bumps in the road” much better.

2. Education. Try to become very familiar with your desired type of reconstruction, both through reading and discussing it with patients who have been through it already. Knowing what to expect allays fears and makes everything easier.

3. If time permits, maximize your body’s fitness through diet and exercise, to the extent that you are comfortable doing so.

—Richard M. Kline Jr., M.D.

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