What is reconstructive breast surgery?

Breast reconstruction surgery is performed to restore a natural shape and size to the breasts. Typically performed after a mastectomy (breast removal for cancer treatment), breast reconstruction may also be performed due to traumatic injury or congenital breast defects.

The goal: a more feminine figure

This type of breast surgery allows plastic surgeons to shape breasts that closely approximate the feel and look of natural breasts. Often, it is performed immediately after a mastectomy procedure. It can also be performed at any point in time after the breast removal. For cancer patients and survivors of cancer or traumatic injury, breast reconstruction offers the possibility to restore the breasts to a more natural appearance and increase patients' self confidence. The goal of breast reconstruction is to sculpt a more feminine figure in the breast area.

Prior to performing reconstructive breast surgery, the surgeon and patient will discuss potential methods for reconstructing the breast area. While most procedures involve synthetic breast implants, other options include the use of donor muscle, skin, and fat from other areas of the body, such as the buttocks or back. This method can result in a longer recovery period, though some patients prefer it for creating the most natural possible feel in the breast area.

Breast reconstruction and health insurance

Unlike most cosmetic breast surgery procedures, breast reconstruction is typically covered by health insurance. The surgery itself requires general anesthesia, and lasts between two and six hours, depending on the amount of reconstruction needed. The first step is the creation of an incision or flap, through which the surgeon accesses the breast tissue. If the patient has some breast tissue remaining, this will be sculpted by the surgeon. Then, silicone or saline breast implants or donor tissues are inserted. Once the surgeon has sculpted the area to the desired appearance, the skin is then placed back over the breast and sutured closed.

After the reconstructive breast surgery, most patients spend one to five nights recovering in the hospital, depending on their overall health. Common side-effects experienced during the recovery period include swelling, bruising, discomfort and tenderness in the breast area and numbness in surrounding tissues. Most patients find that they are able to return to their normal activity levels within three to four weeks.

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