Mastectomy without Implants
Mastectomy Reconstruction Without Implants: Tissue Flap Procedures
The breast can be reconstructed by surgically moving a section of skin, fat, and muscle from one area of your body to another. The section of tissue may be taken from such areas as your abdomen, upper back, upper hip, or buttocks.
The tissue flap may be left attached to the blood supply and moved to the breast area through a tunnel under the skin (a pedicled flap), or it may be removed completely and reattached to the breast area by microsurgical techniques (a free flap). Operating time is generally longer with free flaps, because of the microsurgical requirements.
Flap surgery requires a hospital stay of several days and generally a longer recovery time than implant reconstruction. Flap surgery also creates scars at the site where the flap was taken and possibly on the reconstructed breast. However, flap surgery has the advantage of being able to replace tissue in the chest area. This may be useful when the chest tissues have been damaged and are not suitable for tissue expansion. Another advantage of flap procedures over implantation is that alteration of the unaffected breast is generally not needed to improve symmetry.
The most common types of tissue flaps are the TRAM (transverse rectus abdominus musculocutaneous flap which uses tissue from the abdomen and the Latissimus dorsi flap which uses tissue from the upper back.
It is important for you to be aware that flap surgery, particularly the TRAM flap, is a major operation and more extensive than your mastectomy operation. It requires good general health and strong emotional motivation. If you are very overweight, smoke cigarettes, have had previous surgery at the flap site, or have any circulatory problems, you may not be a good candidate for a tissue flap procedure. Also, if you are very thin, you may not have enough tissue in your abdomen or back to create a breast mound with this method.
The TRAM Flap (Pedicle or Free)
During a TRAM flap procedure, the surgeon removes a section of tissue from your abdomen and moves it to your chest to reconstruct the breast. The TRAM flap is sometimes referred to as a “tummy tuck” reconstruction because it may leave the stomach area flatter.
A pedicle TRAM flap procedure typically takes three to six hours of surgery under general anesthesia; a free TRAM flap procedure generally takes longer. The TRAM procedure may require a blood transfusion. Typically, the hospital stay is two to five days. You can resume normal daily activity after six to eight weeks. Some women, however, report that it takes up to one year to resume a normal lifestyle. You may have temporary or permanent muscle weakness in the abdominal area. If you are considering pregnancy after your reconstruction, you should discuss this with your surgeon. You will have a large scar on your abdomen and may also have additional scars on your reconstructed breast.
The Latissimus Dorsi Flap With or Without Breast Implants
During a Latissimus Dorsi flap procedure, the surgeon moves a section of tissue from your back to your chest to reconstruct the breast. Because the Latissimus Dorsi flap is usually thinner and smaller than the TRAM flap, this procedure may be more appropriate for reconstructing a smaller breast.
The Latissimus Dorsi flap procedure typically takes two to four hours of surgery under general anesthesia. Typically, the hospital stay is two to three days. You can resume daily activity after two to three weeks. You may have some temporary or permanent muscle weakness and difficulty with movement in your back and shoulder. You will have a scar on your back, which can usually be hidden in the bra line. You may also have additional scars on your reconstructed breast.
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