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Dr. Jennifer Emmett, M.D.

Home Plastic Surgery How Does Breast Reconstruction Surgery Work?

April 26, 2022

There are many reasons you may consider breast reconstruction surgery. 

If you have recently had a mastectomy or need one in the future, you may be interested. 

Some women, or men, choose to have breast reconstruction immediately following a mastectomy, while others wait months or even years. The right time to have this procedure will not be the same for everyone. 

While a mastectomy is a common reason to have breast reconstruction, this surgery is also done following lumpectomies, breastfeeding, or when someone wants to correct changes or congenital breast malformations.

An experienced plastic surgeon can guide you in the right direction and help you determine whether you are a better candidate for breast implants or tissue reconstruction. 

Learn more about breast reconstruction, how to prepare for your surgery, and what your recovery will look like.  

What is breast reconstruction?

Breast reconstruction is a surgical procedure that provides a natural-looking and feeling breast. 

This can be done using a silicone or saline implant or tissue from another part of your body. 

There are several types of breast reconstruction surgery available. The best one for you will depend on many factors, such as the extent of any breast cancer surgery, the size and location of the cancer, your breast size, lifestyle, and overall health. 

Multiple surgeries may be necessary to restore your breasts to their normal shape, appearance, and symmetry. But your surgeon will ensure that the breast shape and size matches and that you feel as little discomfort as possible. 

Many patients choose breast reconstruction after mastectomy or lumpectomy due to changes in self-esteem often experienced. Not everyone opts for reconstructive surgery but it can be an essential part of breast cancer treatment and recovery. 

Benefits of breast reconstruction

Patients choose breast reconstruction for a variety of reasons. Some advantages to reconstructive surgery include: 

  • Brings back balance and proportion to your body
  • Raises self-confidence and self-esteem
  • Psychological, emotional, and social improvement 
  • No need to wear a prosthesis or a special bra

Basic breast reconstruction options

Choosing breast reconstruction surgery is a personal choice. 

Once you decide on surgery, you’ll need to consider which type is right for you. 

You may already have an idea of which type you’d prefer, and your surgeon can recommend which is most suitable for you. 

Implant reconstruction 

Reconstruction with breast implants requires two surgeries. 

During the first surgery, the surgeon will place a tissue expander behind your breast skin. This will be gradually filled during weekly office visits. 

Once your breast has been expanded to its desired size, your surgeon will replace the tissue expander with an implant. You may choose between saline or silicone implants. 

Saline implants are filled with sterile saltwater and have been used the longest. 

Currently, silicone implants are most common. Many believe they have a more natural look and feel than saline. Silicone implants are made of a cohesive gel, which is firm like a gummy bear. 

Tissue (flap) reconstruction 

With tissue reconstruction, your surgeon will take tissue from another area of your body, such as your abdomen, buttock, or thigh, and move it to the chest to rebuild the breast. 

While this type of surgery has its advantages, it is highly complex, comes with more risks, and has a longer recovery time. 

Due to the high risks and the fact that more research should be done on this procedure, Dr. Emmett does not perform this type of breast enhancement.

Will I need general anesthesia?

At Emmett Plastic Surgery, we prefer to use twilight sedation during our surgeries. 

While general anesthesia is often a more popular choice, that doesn’t necessarily make it the best choice. 

The negative side effects associated with general anesthesia make it an undesirable choice for Dr. Emmett. 

With twilight sedation, our patients will have pain-free surgery, in an unconscious state, while breathing on their own. 

Preparation for breast reconstruction surgery 

During your hour-long consultation, Dr. Emmett will answer any questions you have about your upcoming surgery, explain the details of the procedure, and give instructions for how to prepare.

In preparing for breast reconstruction surgery, you may be asked to: 

  • Quit smoking 
  • Avoid taking aspirin or anti-inflammatory (NSAIDs) drugs
  • Adjust your current medications 
  • Quit taking medications that can cause complications during surgery 
  • Get lab testing or a medical evaluation 
  • Not eat or drink anything 6-8 hours before surgery 
  • Shower, using antibacterial soap the morning of your surgery to minimize bacterial infections
  • Remove all body piercings and jewelry 
  • Remove nail polish
  • Bring a friend or family member to your surgery so you will have a ride home

Follow-up care and rehabilitation after breast surgery

For the first two weeks, you’ll likely feel sore and tired. These two weeks are the most essential for your recovery. 

While you can take short, light walks, you’re advised against strenuous exercise and lifting anything over your head. 

Sleeping in the upright position for the first two weeks will keep you from placing strain on your breast(s), and reduce fluid accumulation. This reduces pain and helps your breasts heal quickly. 

It is common to see swelling and bruising for up to eight weeks after your surgery. However, if you are concerned, Dr. Emmett is only a phone call away. 

It should only take 6-8 weeks for your breast incisions to heal, and then you can get back to your normal lifestyle and activities. 

Get in touch with Emmett Plastic Surgery 

Dr. Jennifer Emmett, M.D. is a double-board certified plastic surgeon by the American Board of Plastic Surgery and the American Board of Surgery. 

Her skills and experience make her and her practice the top breast procedure center in Denver. 

Dr. Emmett is qualified to perform breast augmentation, breast lifts, breast implants, breast reduction, and breast reconstruction.

The reviews and testimonials from our previous patients will help you understand why her services are high-quality and sought after. 

If you are in the greater Denver and Centennial Colorado area and you’re considering breast reconstruction, contact us to schedule your initial consultation.