Implant Surgery

Implant Surgery for Breast Reconstruction

Breast implant surgery beginning with insertion of a tissue expander remains a common breast reconstruction method. Your individual skin quality, history of radiation treatments and surgical results from mastectomy will help determine if this is a good option for you. Sometimes supplemental tissue is needed to help cover the expander and implant. In this case tissue and muscle from the back, called a latissimus dorsi flap, can be moved to the chest. Because other muscles normally overlap the latissimus muscle, women experience very little if any loss of strength or motion.

Over a several week period, the expander is gradually filled with sterile saline through a small valve to create the final breast size and shape. The expander is then removed and the permanent implant is placed, both through the same incision created during mastectomy.

In one to three months after the placing the implant, the nipple is reconstructed by shaping a small skin flap at the nipple site. Once healed, the created nipple is tattooed for proper color or to match the opposite breast.

For more information about implant surgery for breast reconstruction, call (206) 223-6778.

What to Expect After Breast Implant Surgery

If a tissue expander is placed at the time of your mastectomy, you may stay in the hospital for one to two days. For implants placed later, same-day surgery is possible. Soreness and swelling are normal after surgery and pain medication can help in the first week. Many women recover well in about two weeks following expander placement and permanent implant placement when done following a healed mastectomy.

Risks of Breast Implant Surgery

Breast implant surgery carries the same risks as other surgeries, including bleeding, poor healing or infection. Specific risks associated with breast implants also include:

  • Scar tissue — Known as capsular contracture, scar tissue can form around the implant causing painful hardening of the tissue and changes in breast shape. Additional surgery may be needed to remove the scar tissue or replace the implant.
     
  • Changes in the implant — Over time, implants can harden, become ruptured and leak, or develop ripples and other unwanted changes. Surgery to replace the implant may be needed.
     
  • Scarring — Scars on the breast will normally fade over time, but rarely abnormal scarring can result.
     
  • More follow-up — Silicone gel-filled implants are FDA approved, but require follow-up imaging to diagnose leaks. Your surgeon will discuss with you all implant options and their associated merits and risks.