If you have breast cancer and must have a mastectomy, Breast Reconstruction is the next step toward returning to normalcy. Dr. Clinton has experience with the variety of techniques for reconstruction of the breast, and he can evaluate your case to determine the best method for you.
He will work with your oncologist, as necessary, to schedule your surgery immediately following your mastectomy, if possible, or as soon as medically advisable. Breast reconstruction is often a multi-procedure process that takes months to complete.
Dr. Clinton gives all of his patients a great deal of one-on-one attention. He is a great listener and is empathetic to your concerns. He studied biomedical engineering at Vanderbilt and medicine at UAB, and he received his plastic surgery training at Duke – some of the country’s most prestigious universities. He then spent years in trauma care before focusing on the field of aesthetics.
Reconstructive surgeries are a significant part of his practice. As a result, Dr. Clinton has the experience to work on even the most complex of cases.
What Happens During Breast Reconstruction?
Breast Reconstruction can be done in a number of ways depending upon your case. All methods require general anesthesia and a short hospital stay.
Balloon Tissue Expanders. If breast implants are to be inserted during your breast reconstruction, you may require a temporary balloon tissue expander. This device is placed under the chest muscle in order to stretch the tissue for a period of weeks or months. This creates enough tissue to properly cover the implant.
Fluid is infused into the expander to increase its size and stretch the skin and muscle gradually. When there is enough tissue, the expander can be removed, and the implant can be inserted.
TRAM and DIEP Flaps. A flap involves using your own tissue (usually from the abdomen or the back) to reconstruct your breast. The TRAM flap uses lower abdominal skin and muscle to create the breast, while the DIEP flap uses lower abdominal skin and fat.
The tissue remains attached to the abdomen’s blood supply and is tunneled from the abdomen to the chest underneath the skin.
In some cases, tissue from the upper back is used. This is called a latissimus dorsi flap. A breast implant may still be required with this type of flap.
Bilateral Breast Reconstruction. Even if you had only a single mastectomy, some reconstruction of the healthy breast may be preferable in order that your breasts will match as much as possible.
Dr. Clinton will advise the techniques he recommends for you and will explain the procedure fully.
What Can I Expect During Recovery from Breast Reconstruction?
Recovery will depend on the technique used for your Breast Reconstruction. We will send you home with written instructions for how to take care of yourself after your surgery and each pre-surgery procedure. This will be a reinforcement of verbal instructions that you will receive on several occasions. You will also be evaluated no later than the day after your procedure and monitored during your recovery period. We encourage you to call us if you have any questions at all.
Bruising, swelling, and discomfort are expected after Breast Reconstruction. Swelling is usually the last side effect to go away completely. The scars will improve over time, and we will give you instructions to speed their healing.
We will provide you with a prescription for pain medication, and you will also be given antibiotics to prevent infection. Drains are sometimes placed in the breast and abdominal incisions for a few days up to two weeks. They will collect post-surgical fluids as you heal. We will instruct you how to care for them and will remove them as soon as possible.
You will need to sleep on your back for a few weeks, and you must avoid heavy lifting and any strenuous activity or “straining” for a couple of weeks.
Most women return to office work within 3-4 weeks, but we will discuss this with you based on your individual case. We will provide you with a post-operative plan to help you return to all normal day-to-day activities as soon as possible.