Dr. Charlotte Ann Rhee is a Board Certified Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeon in Huntington, Long Island. One of the top procedures she specializes in is breast reconstruction surgery. If you are interested in breast reconstruction, Charlotte Ann Rhee MD offers free consultations at her Long Island office to discuss your desired results and to see if you are a good candidate.
What Is Breast Reconstruction?
Breast reconstruction is a procedure that Dr. Charlotte Rhee performs on women who have lost one or both breasts to mastectomy, or due to other developmental abnormalities. The goal of breast reconstruction surgery is to create a breast that resembles the natural breast as closely as possible in shape, size, and position.
What Are The Benefits Of Breast Reconstruction?
There is no right or wrong reason for wanting to have breast reconstruction. Many women feel incomplete when missing one or both breasts after mastectomy. It can impact the self-esteem and body image to the point where the woman avoids sex or other intimate situations. She may stop going to the beach or stop even wearing a swimsuit.
The benefits of breast reconstruction with Dr. Rhee are personal, but here are some of the pluses our patients detail
- Finding balance when wearing a bra or swimsuit.
- No longer feeling a missing a breast.
- No longer needing breast forms inside a bra.
- Excelling in confidence between the body and self.
The Breast Reconstruction Process
Breast reconstruction is performed in several steps, and there are essentially two techniques used. The technique that Dr. Rhee uses depends on if there is enough tissue on the wall of the chest to cover or hold a breast implant. The two techniques that Dr. Rhee can use to reconstruct the breast are:
- Breast Reconstruction with Implants
- Reconstruction By Creating Skin Flap/Tissue
Both implant insertion and tissue flap surgery are followed by nipple and areola reconstruction. The reconstructed breast will probably look and feel different from the natural breast. Further surgery may be desired to adjust the natural breast to better match the reconstructed one, although a perfect correspondence in size, shape, and height is unlikely
What Our Patients Say
“Fantastic staff and caring doctors. I felt reassured before and after my surgery. I was well taken cared of. Any concerns or questions were answered effectively.” – Stacey P.
Breast Reconstruction With Implants
The most common technique combines skin expansion with implant insertion. First, Dr. Rhee inserts a balloon expander beneath the skin and chest muscle where the reconstructed breast will be located. A saline (salt water) solution is then injected into the expander through a tiny valve beneath the skin over a few weeks or months, eventually filling it and stretching the skin. The expander may then be left in place or replaced with a permanent implant. A final procedure reconstructs the nipple and areola (dark area of skin around the nipple). Some patients do not require tissue expansion and begin with the implant.
Skin Flap Reconstruction Surgery
Another, more complicated type of implant reconstruction involves the creation of a skin flap using tissue from other parts of the body. If the flap is not large enough to serve as the new breast by itself, an implant is then inserted beneath it. Tissue for the flap consists of skin, fat, and muscle from the back, abdomen or buttocks and may either be surgically removed and reattached (free flap, requiring a microvascular surgeon) or remain connected to its original blood supply and “tunneled” through the body to the chest (pedicled flap). Advantages over implant insertion are a more natural look and feel for the breast and abdomen. There is also an elimination of any risks associated with silicone implants. Disadvantages of this technique are scars at the breast and donor-tissue site, and longer recovery.
Nipple And Areola Reconstruction
Whichever process you choose, the next step will involve nipple and areola reconstruction. The initial breast reconstruction procedures focus solely on crafting the breast mound, while reconstruction of the nipple and areola are performed as part of a secondary surgery that completes the reconstruction process. This is done after the breasts have fully healed and after all forms of cancer treatment are completed. It is best to achieve satisfaction with the breast shape before performing this procedure.
Nipple reconstruction may be performed using one of several techniques, including tissue and cartilage flaps, skin grafts and tattooing. Before treatment, Dr. Rhee will discuss these options with you to determine which method is best for you. Some patients may choose not to reconstruct the nipple at all and are satisfied with the appearance of their breast.
What Are The Risks With Breast Reconstruction?
Breast reconstruction is certainly major surgery. Because of that, it involves all of the risks that accompany major surgery: poor wound healing, infection, excessive bleeding, reaction to anesthesia, fluid accumulation, and the formation of blood clots.
But there are a variety of problems that can occur later in the recovery process:
- Tissue death in flap procedures
- Problems at the donor site where tissue was taken, such as loss of muscle strength
- Asymmetry between your breasts
- Changes in the arm on the side of the reconstructed breast
- Problems with the breast implant, such as leakage, rupture, or capsular contracture
- Asymmetry between your breasts
- The need for follow-up procedures to address problems
Breast Revision Surgery
Many patients undergoing breast reconstruction procedures will require additional surgery in order to achieve a natural, aesthetically-pleasing breast appearance. These secondary surgeries may be performed to:
- Correct abnormalities or deformities caused by the flap or implant
- To recreate the nipple and areola
- To further enhance the appearance of the treated breast.
Women should expect revision surgery as a common follow-up treatment for breast reconstruction surgery.
Any breast corrections required are usually performed at the same time as the procedure to recreate the nipple and areola, in order to reduce operating costs and recovery times. Nipple reconstruction is usually performed after initial swelling has subsided and additional treatments have been completed. Women undergoing chemotherapy can usually undergo secondary surgery about a month after treatment is finished, while those undergoing radiation therapy may be advised to wait for several months.
Revision Surgery Risks
Revision procedures are often more complicated than initial surgery and may bring about additional risks. Dr. Rhee will discuss these risks and answer any questions you may have prior to the decision to undergo treatment to ensure your safety and full understanding of the procedure.
What Will My Recovery Be Like?
Your recovery period and difficulty can vary widely due to the variety of methods that can be employed. Hospital stays can run from one to six nights. Patients are generally tired and sore for up to two weeks, with full recovery taking up to six weeks. You need to remember that you’re basically recovering from two procedures.
When you return home, Dr. Rhee will have placed bandages and elastic supports to allow the newly reconstructed breast to heal properly without undue stress. There will likely be a drainage tube. A pain pump is effective to reduce the need for narcotic pain relievers.
We’ll give you detailed instructions on what you should avoid in order to accelerate your healing process. As a general rule, you’ll need to refrain from any overhead lifting, strenuous exercise, and any sexual activity for up to six weeks following your surgery.
What Will My Reconstructed Breast Look Like?
Dr. Rhee uses her surgical expertise to make your reconstructed breast look good, but, as you would expect, it won’t look the same as your natural breast Dr. Rhee works very hard to match the size, shape, symmetry, and other attributes of your remaining breast. To make both breasts similar, we may need to operate on the remaining breast, changing its size or providing a breast lift.