A Guide to Breast Reconstruction: Overview

May 15, 2024 | Blog

Intro to Breast Reconstruction Surgery


Breast reconstruction surgery is an accessible option for individuals wanting to get back the form they’ve lost to a mastectomy or lumpectomy. 

Breast cancer affects countless people, and thankfully, many are able to beat the cancer with determination and skillful doctors. The results are incredible – lives saved – but the scars do last, and some would like to reconstruct their figure. 

Breast reconstruction from San Antonio plastic and cosmetic surgeons, STARS Plastic Surgery, can tremendously uplift these individuals by restoring and enhancing their figure. 

Getting back to everyday life, having fewer reminders of past trauma, and stabilizing self-esteem and confidence: these are the benefits of breast reconstruction post-mastectomy or lumpectomy. 

With a success rate of up to 90%, these reconstructive surgical options are increasingly beneficial for countless survivors.

Please inquire today with any questions. We are here for you.


Key Takeaways


  • Reconstruction Options: Choose between implant-based, autologous tissue, or hybrid reconstruction.
  • Success Rates: Implant success rates range from 70-85%, while autologous tissue success rates range from 80-90%.
  • Timing of Surgery: Immediate reconstruction offers faster results; delayed allows for completing cancer treatment first.
  • Choose Your Surgeon Wisely: Look for a board-certified plastic surgeon with extensive breast reconstruction experience.
  • Postoperative Expectations: Prepare for pain management, surgical drain care, and several weeks of limited physical activity.


Breast Reconstruction Surgery San Antonio



Understanding Breast Reconstruction Techniques


There are two primary approaches to breast reconstruction: implant-based and autologous tissue reconstruction.

Implant-Based Reconstruction

In implant-based reconstruction, tissue expanders gradually stretch the skin before the final implant placement. 

Alternatively, a direct-to-implant approach can place an implant immediately after mastectomy. 

The benefits include shorter surgery times and predictable size and shape. However, implants have a higher risk of complications and are not lifetime devices.

Autologous Tissue Reconstruction

Autologous tissue reconstruction offers a more natural feel and longer-lasting results using one’s own tissue to recreate the breast. 

Common techniques include TRAM, DIEP, and Latissimus Dorsi flaps. 

The surgery is longer, and there may be additional scarring, but satisfaction rates are generally higher.


Table 1: Reconstruction Techniques Comparison

Technique Pros Cons Recovery Time Patient Satisfaction
Implant-based Shorter surgery, predictable size/shape Higher risk of complications, not lifetime devices 4-6 weeks 70-85%
Autologous tissue Natural feel, longer-lasting results Longer surgery, potential for additional scars 6-8 weeks 80-90%


Implant-Based Reconstruction


Implant-based reconstruction involves using tissue expanders or directly placing implants to rebuild the breast. 

Tissue expanders gradually stretch the skin and are later replaced with permanent implants. 

Direct-to-implant surgery places the implant immediately after mastectomy. Patients can choose between silicone and saline implants, each offering unique benefits.

  • Tissue Expander: Gradually stretches the skin to accommodate an implant.
  • Direct-to-implant: Immediate placement of the implant post-mastectomy.
  • Silicone Implants: More natural feel, preferred by most patients.
  • Saline Implants: Slightly firmer, lower cost, and adjustable.


Autologous Tissue Reconstruction


Autologous tissue reconstruction uses the patient’s own tissue to recreate the breast. 

This tissue is usually taken from the abdomen, back, or buttocks. The most common techniques include:

  • TRAM Flap: Uses muscle, fat, and skin from the abdomen.
  • DIEP Flap: Utilizes only skin and fat from the abdomen, sparing muscle.
  • Latissimus Dorsi Flap: Relocates muscle, fat, and skin from the upper back.

This technique provides a natural look and feel due to the use of the patient’s tissue.

Despite offering improved longevity and higher satisfaction rates, autologous tissue reconstruction comes with challenges. 

The surgery takes longer, and recovery can be up to eight weeks. There may also be additional scars at the donor site.


Combined Reconstruction Techniques


Hybrid reconstruction techniques combine implants and autologous tissue to achieve a more natural appearance. 

For instance, the latissimus dorsi flap can be used with an implant to provide a natural-looking breast while offering flexibility in size and shape.


Timing of Breast Reconstruction


Immediate Reconstruction

Surgeons perform immediate reconstruction at the same time as a mastectomy. 

This timeline reduces the psychological impact of losing a breast by starting the reconstruction process right away. 

The benefits include fewer surgeries and the ability to preserve more breast skin, which leads to a more natural shape. 

However, immediate reconstruction may not be suitable if additional treatments, such as radiation therapy, are needed post-mastectomy.

Delayed Reconstruction

Delayed reconstruction occurs after the initial cancer treatment is completed. 

Patients needing additional radiation therapy will need to choose delayed reconstruction. 

While it involves multiple surgeries and a more extended waiting period, the results can still be satisfying. 

Delayed reconstruction allows the patient to focus on treatment first and consider reconstruction later.


Success Rates and Outcomes


Breast reconstruction techniques generally have high success rates. 

Implant-based reconstruction has a success rate of 70-85%, while autologous tissue reconstruction ranges from 80-90%. 

Success depends on factors like age, health, and lifestyle. Younger patients and those in good health usually have better outcomes. However, smokers or those with certain health conditions may experience more complications.

Managing expectations is important. Breast reconstruction can create a natural-looking breast, but it won’t be identical to the original. Choosing a qualified plastic surgeon can significantly impact the results. (1)


Choosing the Right Surgeon for Breast Reconstruction


It is very important to do your homework when looking for a plastic/cosmetic surgeon. You want to feel confident in your choice from beginning to end. 

Make sure any surgeon you consider working with is a board-certified plastic surgeon with experience in breast reconstruction. 

Your consultation should include a detailed discussion of options, expectations, and potential complications.

  • Check for Board Certification: Ensure the surgeon is certified and experienced in breast reconstruction.
  • Review Before-and-After Photos: Look for consistency in results.
  • Ask About Success Rates: Understand how often the surgeon performs these procedures.
  • Complication Management: Inquire about the surgeon’s approach to handling complications.
  • Verify Hospital Affiliations and Testimonials: Choose a surgeon with good hospital affiliations and positive patient testimonials.


Postoperative Recovery and Care


Recovering from breast reconstruction surgery involves pain management. 

Expect discomfort. Pain medication is the big player here. 

You may have surgical drains to prevent fluid buildup, which the surgeon will remove after one or two weeks. 

To avoid complications, limit physical activity during the initial recovery period. Your surgeon will provide a detailed list of restrictions.

Proper scar care is essential for optimal healing. 

Keep incisions clean and dry, and apply silicone gel or sheets as directed. Attend all follow-up appointments for progress checks. Recognize early signs of complications, such as infection (redness, swelling, fever) or implant displacement (visible asymmetry or unusual firmness).


Final Thoughts – Breast Reconstruction in San Antonio, TX


Breast reconstruction is a significant decision that requires understanding your options and finding the right surgeon. Improving the lives of countless cancer survivors, these surgical options have made big strides in recent years – boosting satisfaction up to 90%. 

Different techniques offer unique benefits, but choosing a qualified plastic surgeon ensures a successful outcome.

STARS Plastic Surgery in San Antonio, TX, specializes in breast reconstruction. Our comprehensive consultations and tailored surgical plans will make you feel confident about your choice. We are committed to improving lives and restoring confidence as well as figures. Call today! We are here for you.





(1) American Society of Plastic SurgeonsSurvey: Many U.S. Women Lack Basic Information on Life After Mastectomy, https://www.plasticsurgery.org/news/press-releases/survey-many-us-women-lack-basic-information-on-life-after-mastectomy



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