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Breast Reconstruction with Autologous Tissue

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Dec 2, 2022.

What do I need to know about breast reconstruction?

Breast reconstruction is surgery to rebuild one or both breasts with your own tissue. This tissue is called a flap. The flap may be taken from your lower abdomen, upper back, buttock, or thigh. The flap may contain skin, fat, muscle, or a combination of these.

How do I prepare for breast reconstruction?

Your healthcare provider will talk to you about how to prepare for surgery. You may need to stop taking blood thinners or aspirin several days before surgery. You may need a CT angiogram before surgery. CT angiogram pictures will check the blood vessels in the tissue flap that will be used. You may be given contrast liquid to help the blood vessels show up better in the pictures. Tell the healthcare provider if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast liquid. He or she may tell you not to eat or drink anything after midnight on the day of your surgery. Your provider may tell you to shower the night before your surgery. He or she may tell you to use a certain soap to help prevent a surgical site infection. Your provider will tell you what medicines to take or not take on the day of your surgery.

What will happen during breast reconstruction?

  • You may be given general anesthesia to keep you asleep and free from pain during surgery. You may be given an antibiotic through your IV to help prevent a bacterial infection. Your healthcare provider will make an incision over one or both breasts. He or she will also make an incision at the donor site. Your healthcare provider may remove skin, muscle, fat, blood vessels, or a combination of these, from this area. This tissue is the flap. He or she may keep the flap attached to blood vessels and move it through a tunnel under your skin to your chest. Your provider may instead cut the flap free and reattach it to the blood vessels in your chest.
  • Your healthcare provider may place several drains at the donor site and at the new breast or breasts. The drains will help remove extra fluid and help your incisions heal. Your donor site and breast incision or incisions will be closed with stitches. A bandage will be placed over each incision. Your healthcare provider may place a binder across your abdominal incision. This will help prevent bleeding and decrease pain.

What will happen after breast reconstruction?

  • Healthcare providers will monitor you until you are awake. You may spend the first night in an intensive care unit (ICU). Healthcare providers will closely monitor the blood flow to your flaps in the ICU. After that you may spend several more days in the hospital before you can go home. Bruising and swelling are normal and expected. You will not be able to lie flat in bed if tissue has been taken from your abdomen. This may put too much stress on your incision. Your healthcare provider will give you instructions on how to avoid putting stress on your incisions.
  • Nipple and areola reconstruction can be done after you have healed from surgery. Tissue may be taken from other parts of your body to rebuild your nipple and areola. Ask your healthcare provider for more information about nipple and areola reconstruction.

What are the risks of breast reconstruction?

You may bleed more than expected or get an infection. Nerves, muscles, or blood vessels may be damaged during your surgery. Fluid or blood may collect under your skin at the flap or donor site. You may need surgery to drain or remove it. The blood flow to your flap may stop. This could cause the tissue to die. You may need surgery to remove the dead tissue or repair the blood vessels. You may develop a hernia (a bulging of tissue organs through your abdominal wall) if tissue was taken from your abdomen. You may get a blood clot in your arm, leg, or lung. This may become life-threatening.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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