Implant reconstruction

Your breast can be surgically reconstructed by putting in an artificial breast mound, known as an implant. 

How is implant reconstruction done? 

Synthetic implants are usually teardrop-shaped pouches that are placed under a layer of chest muscle to create the shape of a breast. The process of breast reconstruction using implants may involve one or two stages, often depending on the individual patient's breast size. For smaller breasted women, a single stage reconstruction may be possible. With this approach, the plastic surgeon places the implant in a pocket beneath the skin and muscle layers, at the location of the new breast. This surgery is usually performed through the old mastectomy scar.

Implant thumb image

Most commonly, implant breast reconstruction is carried out in two stages. The first stage consists of placement of a device called a " tissue expander." An expander is a silicone-walled pouch that resembles an empty balloon with a small valve in its front wall. This valve allows the surgeon to fill the implant with saline in the weeks following this initial operation. Its gradual expansion over a few weeks helps to make space for the implant. During the second stage, the tissue expander is replaced with an implant.

To learn more about the qualities of implants, visit the breast augmentation page.

Outcomes and recovery

Since you will have a preset shape, the outcome may be easier to predict with implants than with tissue reconstruction. The implant procedure also leaves fewer scars, often using the mastectomy scar as the site of the new incision. Since the surgeon will not be able to shape the implant the way free flap procedures allow, implants may not be as closely matched to the natural breast.As your body changes, such as with weight change, the implant will not be able to naturally change with your natural breast. Some women also think implants have a less natural feeling to the touch.

Implant surgery requires a shorter procedure and recovery time than other reconstruction options, but the tissue expander may take much longer as preparation. If you've had radiation, your skin may have scarring that is difficult to stretch using an expander.

Risks and complications

As with any surgery, there are some risks associated with breast implants. Patients face the risk of bleeding, infections or poor wound healing. There is a chance that the implant may break and leak into breast tissue. This chance may be higher if you undergo regular mammograms, and the risk should be discussed with your surgeon during a consultation.

Your surgeons and care team

The plastic surgeons and care team members who perform breast reconstructions and help patients recover from the procedure are experts in their field. All surgeons including the plastic surgeons and surgical oncologists work very closely to plan your surgical treatment and reconstruction. All of our surgeons are board-certified in plastic surgery and have years of experience in breast reconstruction procedures. Learn more about the team through the profiles below.