Breast Reconstruction in our Gold Coast surgery

After  a mastectomy , breast reconstruction surgery  is the rebuilding of your breast . Today there are a very wide range of options and different types of breast reconstruction available to breast cancer patients. Sometimes breast reconstruction can take place at the same time that the mastectomy  is performed, but it is generally also possible to have breast surgery at any time after the original procedure.

This is a short summary of the different options and how they work. Also see our page on Nipple Reconstruction.

Breast reconstruction surgery divides into two basic types: breast implant and tissue transfer. With breast implant, as with normal cosmetic surgery, an implant is inserted into the breast cavity. Tissue transfer on the other hand involves using skin, fat and muscle tissue from the patient’s own body to perform the surgery. It is also possible to use both of these techniques together to achieve the desired outcome.
Follow this link to “Reclaim your curves” which is an Australain based website endorsed by Breast Surgeons of Australia and New Zealand for aiding in decision making about breast reconstruction.

Breast Implant – Expander Implant Post Mastectomy Reconstruction

Post mastectomy reconstruction may be done immediately following a mastectomy, or as a delayed procedure. The timing of this procedure is individual and will be discussed with Dr Gault as not all patients are suitable for immediate reconstruction.  The process of using an expander and implant for breast reconstruction involves a two-staged approach. The first stage involves placing a tissue expander (a temporary implant) under the pectoralis major muscle on the chest wall. The expander is used to create a soft pocket for placement of the permanent implant.

During the first stage of reconstruction when the expander it is positioned on the chest wall, the tissue expander will be partially filled with saline. Approximately 3 weeks after this surgery, expansion can be started. The expansion process performed by Dr Gault in his practice treatment rooms. The process of expansion takes place every 2 – 3 weeks until the desired size is achieved.

The expander has a filling port built into the implant. This port is located and accessed with a needle through the skin. Expansion takes approximately 10 minutes and the amount of fluid injected is limited by the tightness of the patient’s skin and by patient comfort. Typically, the volume for each expansion procedure is 100 ml of saline. Some heaviness/tightness may be felt following each expansion. This will subside after 24- 48 hours and is generally managed well with the use of paracetamol or ibuprofen.

Once the expansion stage is completed, the second stage of reconstruction can be performed. The tissue expander implant is removed and is replaced with the silicone implant creating a more refined breast shape and feel.

Tissue Transfer and Flap Reconstruction

Also called flap reconstruction’, tissue transfer is generally performed using two different methods – so called ‘attached flaps’ and ‘free flaps’. The difference between these two techniques is that, with attached flaps, muscle and fat from either the back or stomach area is moved within the body (a process called ‘tunnelling’) to the chest underneath the affected breast/s. The free flap technique involves removing muscle, fat and skin tissue from the stomach, reattaching it to a blood supply and using this tissue to reconstruct the breast/s.

Two common techniques in tissue transfer surgery are the so-called TRAM flap technique (TRAM stands for Transcutaneous Rectus Abdominus Myocutaneous – the stomach muscle tissue used for the reconstruction) where skin and fat as well as muscle tissue are moved to the affected chest area, and DIEP flap reconstruction (DIEP stands for Deep Inferior Epigastric Artery Perforator) which uses skin and fat but not muscle to reconstruct the breast. The DIEP technique generally has a slightly quicker recovery period than the TRAM technique.

The advantage of transfer techniques is that an implant is not required and that any changes in bodyweight will not impact the look of the breast/s. With the TRAM technique there is a small additional benefit of fat tissue being removed from the stomach – a sort of ‘tummy tuck’.

The surgical procedure and recovery period is longer and there will be scars on the back or stomach. If stomach muscle tissue is used, there may also be a loss of strength in that area.

As Dr Gault does not perform this procedure, you will be referred to another surgeon if you would prefer this type of breast recosntruction.

Latissimus Dorsi Flap

This is a muscle, fat and skin flap taken from the back. It is moved around to the breast to reconstruct the breast totally, or more commonly used in combination with an implant for breast reconstruction. It is most commonly used for reconstruction when a patient has had a mastectomy and radiotherapy.

Many factors need to be weighed to decide which is the most appropriate technique to use in each case and Dr John Gault can give advice and support in making this decision. Contact our Gold Coast surgery for more information.

Potential Complications of Breast Reconstruction

As recorded by The Australain Plastic Surgery Society, the following is a comprehensive list of possible complications following a breast recosntruction. Further information can be found on the following links:

Modern surgery is generally safe but does have the potential for risks and complications to occur.

Some general complications and risks associated with surgery may include:

  • Heavy bleeding from an operated site
  • Fluid accumulation around the operation site(s)
  • Infection that may require treatment with antibiotics or further surgery in some cases
  • Allergic reaction to sutures, dressings or antiseptic solutions
  • The formation of a large blood clot (haematoma) beneath an incision site may require further surgery
  • Complications such as heart attack, pulmonary embolism or stroke may be caused by a blood clot, which can be life threatening
  • Pain, bruising and swelling around the operated site(s)
  • Slow healing, often related to smoking or diabetes
  • Short-term nausea following general anaesthesia and other risks related to anaesthesia

Some possible complications and risks associated with breast reconstruction surgery using implants may include:

  • Infection around the implant
  • Capsular contracture, where firm scar tissue forms around the implant causing it to lose shape and softness
  • Implant rupture or deflation
  • Leakage of the implant’s contents (silicone gel or saline)
  • Asymmetry (unevenness) of the breasts
  • Calcium deposits in the scar capsule around the implant
  • Granulomas, or lumps in local lymph node tissue formed by leaking silicone
  • Movement of the implants from their original position
  • Further surgery to treat complications

Some possible complications and risks associated with breast reconstruction surgery using flap reconstruction may include:

  • Loss of blood circulation to the reconstructed breast due to clotting in the rejoined blood vessels. This can result in flap tissue dying (necrosis)
  • Small areas of hardness (fat necrosis) may develop in the new breast
  • Fluid collection (seroma) at the flap site
  • Weakened abdominal muscle, which can result in a hernia
  • Difference in size and shape (asymmetry) between the natural and reconstructed breasts
  • Temporary loss of full movement of the arm on the side of the reconstructed breast.