Breast reconstruction after tumor resection

Reasons for this operation are as follows: loss or partial loss of one or both breasts.

What you should keep in mind

Anaesthesia:
general
Length of operation:
2 – 6 hours
Patient status:
inpatient, up to one week
Side effects:
swelling, tension, restriction of the movements of the arms
Recovery:
back to work: 1 to 3 weeks
Result:
lasting when reconstructed by autologous tissue, after previous irradiation corrections are likely

The operation

For reconstruction of the breast, there are a variety of techniques available, not only for the diseased breast but also for the unaltered, contralateral breast. Breast reconstruction can be performed either primarily (along with the tumor resection) or secondarily (at any later date).

The different possibilities include the following:
Expansion of the remaining tissue and insertion of a breast implant (heterologous tissue).

After removal of the diseased breast, an expander is placed under the regional musculature and the skin and muscle are expanded. The expansion usually lasts for about 6 to 8 weeks. The expander remains in position for an additional 2 to 6 months and is then replaced with a suitable breast implant. In a later operation, the nipple-areolar complex reconstruction is performed.

Another option is replacement of the resected breast tissue by harvesting autologous tissue from the back, abdomen or gluteal region.

The available amount of tissue from the back usually does not suffice for a complete reconstruction and has to be combined with a breast implant.

Tissue from the abdomen or gluteal region is usually sufficient for the creation of a new breast. Such operations last longer, are more severe and can lead to more complications, including loss of the transferred tissue. These operations are usually performed with the assistance of a microscope.

For reconstruction of the nipple-areola complex, the areola can be either tattooed or transplanted and the nipple is created either from local tissue or as a free transplant from darker-pigmented skin region.


Praxis Prof. Dr. med. Beer, Zürich
Example of a breast reconstruction, before (red) and after reconstruction (blue).

Treatment options

Treatment areas