In a recent op-ed article published by The New York Times, actress and director Angelina Jolie shared her decision to undergo a preventative double mastectomy and breast reconstruction with implants. After receiving genetic testing, Jolie discovered she carried the BRCA1 gene, a mutation of genes linked to the development of breast and ovarian cancer that increased her risk of developing breast cancer by 87 percent. Jolie ultimately decided to undergo her procedures in order to stay healthy for her family. By sharing her courageous story, Jolie hopes to bring awareness about women’s options for preventing and/or treating breast cancer.
At Atlanta Plastic Surgery, our highly skilled plastic surgeons perform a wide range of breast reconstruction procedures to rebuild the breast mound. Breast reconstruction can be performed directly after a mastectomy or many years following a mastectomy. Many women may postpone breast reconstruction surgery to fully recover from mastectomy surgery first. Patients that choose breast reconstruction directly after mastectomy can undergo oncoplastic surgery, which combines the efforts of oncologists and reconstructive surgeons to remove cancerous tissue and immediately restore the breast’s aesthetics afterward. In recent years, new breast technology and continued research have improved reconstructive surgery to create natural-looking results.
There are many breast reconstruction options available with two main techniques. One technique is Jolie’s procedure, breast reconstruction using implants, and the other technique is using a natural tissue flap to rebuild the breast mound. Reconstruction using breast implants has been a preferred option for patients who have enough remaining breast tissue to support a saline or silicone implant. Often, an empty elastomer shell known as a tissue expander can be used and gradually filled with sterile saline solution to encourage skin and tissue growth.
To perform breast reconstruction with a tissue flap, our surgeons harvest healthy fat and tissue from the patient’s own body to create a breast mound. The TRAM flap method (transverse rectus abdominis muscle) was developed by Atlanta Plastic Surgery’s co-founder Dr. Carl Hartrampf and perfected by other Atlanta plastic surgery surgeons. The TRAM flap method harvests abdominal muscle and tissue and maintains the same blood supply. Similarly, the DIEP flap method also harvests tissue and fat from the abdomen, but the connected blood vessels are transferred to the chest and abdominal muscles. Another flap procedure, the latissimus dorsi flap, harvests tissue from the patient’s back.
In addition to the two main techniques, our surgeons also perform fat transfer for breast reconstruction. Fat transfer uses liposuction to remove fat from another area of the body such as the abdomen, thighs, or back for re-injection into the breast area. Like tissue flap methods, fat transfer lowers the risk of complications since the surgeon is using materials from the patient’s own body instead of a synthetic material.
While mastectomy and breast reconstruction is a complex procedure that requires many decisions, it is important to consult with your board certified plastic surgeon to learn about available options and educational resources. For more information on breast reconstruction procedures or to learn about other breast, body, or facial procedures, contact us today to schedule a consultation. Be sure to connect with Atlanta Plastic Surgery on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ for more cosmetic and reconstructive surgery news.